Nobody sane wishes to be sad, but at some points in our lives we all have been, and it’s beyond dispute that emotional pain will be a part of our future. This begs the question of why we metalheads tend to seek out and enjoy music that evokes feelings of sorrow and listen for our own enjoyment. I’ve always found melancholy set to music a beautiful thing but have never considered why I’ve found it so. Perhaps it’s because to mourn a loss, a man must care deeply about that which has departed. Perhaps it’s the ubiquity of sorrow, and the sad song’s reminder that we’re not alone in our perils. Perhaps it’s the confronting of melancholy through music which gives us courage and makes us feel like we’ve faced down that which we feared. Perhaps it’s none or all these things, or perhaps more.
Black Therapy are an Italian melodic doom-death band in the same vein as Decaying Days, a band whose excellent The Fire of a Thousand Suns graced the top five of my 2017 list. This means that Black Therapy remind of Dark Tranquillity, Insomnium, and later Katatonia in their execution, although without much clean vocalization. The effect of this choice is to shift the entire melodic workload to the guitars, which are produced cleanly to maximize the effect and place full emphasis on the lead melodies. This is a common tactic, and Black Therapy sounds familiar as soon as Echoes of Dying Memories begins its long journey through the speakers.
The familiarity is a boon throughout, as Black Therapy provide exactly what is expected of this subgenre. It’s nice to get precisely what you wanted, and Echoes of Dying Memories delivers on that front. “Dreaming” provides a small surprise, sounding in its introduction and verse like a slowed-down Mors Principium Est before moving into a boilerplate but effective chorus you’ve heard before but will enjoy upon hearing again. “The Winter of Your Suffering” is a sparse, gorgeous, piano-led instrumental with synthesized strings in the background. It uses repetition deftly, altering pieces enough to keep the focused listener engaged and the knot in his stomach tightened. Opening track “Phoenix Rising” sets the stage for Echoes of Dying Memories like the musical equivalent of a long single shot across imposing, snow-covered mountains may begin a film. The song washed over me each time, making me both comfortable and excited for more.
The misses here are not easily noticed. “Rejecting Me” isn’t unpalatable, but flies wide of the mark in its animating melodies. To my ears, there’s a bitterness in the harmony between lead and rhythm guitars, along with in the lead melody itself. It’s more guarded than vulnerable, and Black Therapy, as their name suggests, excels when musically expressing vulnerability. “Ideal” is another decent song that doesn’t clearly stand out in its flaws, but the leading melody here is the most paint-by-numbers thing on Echoes of Dying Memories. Those who lap this music up will enjoy it, as it adheres to genre conventions and performs ably. I still like it, but it’s less effective than the other material on offer. The relatively similar tempo throughout, coupled with a use of repetition which is—fortunately—often effective makes the 45-minute runtime seem more imposing than it is. A bit of paring down and conciseness, a la Atoma and Night Is the New Day, would make the good ideas here hit even harder. As it stands, this is not a fatal flaw, but it does leave a bit to be desired.
Overall, Black Therapy have impressed me with Echoes of Dying Memories. I can earnestly recommend it to those who enjoy melodic death-doom. The record has a distinct advantage in doing a subgenre well in that those who want something reliably in that vein with few idiosyncrasies can put this on and be satisfied. Quality craftsmanship in a predictable vein is as necessary as bold innovation. The production is par for the course in contemporary metal, with drums sounding pristine and not quite live, although it is obvious they’re not programmed. Guitars are distorted electronically by the sounds of it, sounding big yet clear and without analog’s warm, charming flaws. Bass is used to bolster the guitars and add weight to the rhythm guitars so the leads can float gracefully over top; it performs this role well. Not a home run, but a reliable double. Successful baseball requires both.