Carcolh – The Life and Works of Death Review

Doom can be rather dull. We all know it. Even the most ardent doom aficionado will concede the point if pressed hard enough. It takes imagination, guile, and tradecraft to make a slow moving depressive style both interesting and exciting. The best bands skillfully craft riffs and vocal lines that shake the brain stem and excite the neurons regardless of relative speed, and songs must find that elusive balance between pacing and engagement. French baguette doomsters Carcolh worship the genre’s traditional ways and on sophomore album The Life and Works of Death, they attempt that oh so delicate tightrope walk. You get deliberate, plodding compositions faithful to the likes of Candlemass and Saint Vitus and striving to sell you an all-inclusive grief tourism package. Are they skilled enough to avoid the dreaded malaise ov doom? Let us examine their works of death.

Carcolh‘s approach is one doom fans will immediately recognize. They trod the same dirt as Candlemass and early Pallbearer. The riffs are big and slow and the pacing is stuck at an unrelenting plod with occasional upward swings into mid-tempo hijinks. Opener “From Dark Ages They Came” kicks into life like a My Dying Bride number with tortured doom riffs reeking of funeral shroud. Things eventually get rolling a bit more urgently (and I mean “a bit”) and Sébastien Fanton’s vocals join the fray. Mr. Fanton possesses a very nasally, whiny delivery that sounds like an unfortunate cross between Dave Mustaine and Witchfinder General‘s Zeeb Parkes. I don’t much care for his vocals and they often work against the music which is decent and sometimes quite good. The band seasons the song with trace stoner doom elements and eventually they lock onto a vibrant swing that kicks up the energy nicely. At 8:46 however, the song runs about 2 minutes past the point it should cease and desist. “Works of Death” channels Crypt Sermon in the riffs and vocal lines for a more aggressive, in-your-face approach. It’s pretty standard, by-the-numbers stuff but it’s not bad.

The highpoint arrives with “When the Embers Light the Way” which is more upbeat and lively, incorporating some NWoBHM flair. There’s some genuinely solid riff-work, interesting harmonies, and Fanton even dabbles in death vocals. By all measures it should resonate strongly with an old timey doom fan like me, but Fenton’s vocals just don’t work and bring the song down several notches. They do far worse on extended ballad “Aftermath” where he’s given way too much rope and spotlight. Add two tracks that exceed the 10-minute mark with roughly 6 minutes of content and you have a band shooting themselves in the foot time and again. While “The Blind Goddess” has interesting moments and a very Count Raven-esque sound, by the end of its 10 minutes, you’re more than ready for the exit. Closer “Sepulchre” is even less effective at holding my attention despite solid guitar-work and Fenton’s best vocal performance. It’s not awful, but it’s just very generic doom without the magic X-factor that makes one linger graveside weeping late into the night.

Quentin Aberne and Olivier Blanc are able guitarists and deliver some good doom leads over the course of the album, as well as poignant solos and harmonies. The bones of the songs are generally solid but the combination of having heard the same thing done so many times before and really not enjoying the vocals conspires to lower my enjoyment of The Life and Works of Death. Fenton is not a good frontman and his singing alternates between painful and awkward. Most of the material labor to hold my attention and even the better numbers merely achieve a level of decent. In all honesty, even with a better singer, the core material would still be too generic to blow anyone away.

Carcolh is a band with some degree of potential and The Life and Works of Death is not a terrible album. It has good moments scattered across its almost 49 minutes. It’s just not the kind of release that will get many folks excited and talking. The band will need to step things up considerably writing-wise if they hope to make it in the big leagues of doom, but I liked enough of what I heard here to keep tabs on them going forward. Incomplete works.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Sleeping Church Records
Websites: carcolh.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/Carcolh
Releases Worldwide: February 19th, 2021

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