We all know that imitation is supposedly the sincerest form of flattery, but where exactly is that flimsy line, where tribute slips into mimicry and thunders down that Jacob’s ladder, only to greet the ground with a limp thud, uniform and unremarkable. This is a question I find myself pondering whilst meandering through the trails of traditional doom that comprise Deranged Pagan Sons, the fourth release from Finland’s Cardinals Folly. This trio have wrung a career from the bones of many a doom luminary – tipping their hats, stylistically, to the likes of Cathedral and Saint Vitus, with strong, dry riffs and subtly mournful melodies. But its the deep devotion to fellow Fins, Reverend Bizarre, that informs Cardinals Folly‘s identity to such a degree that I’m left to wonder if it is, in fact, an identity at all.
To be clear, Deranged Pagan Sons is an objectively decent record. Nostalgic doom metal waltzes with the occult druidic ambience that so often bats its eye-lashes at the genre and engineers a purposeful immediacy that never seeks to deviate from the formula. The problem is, you’ve heard it all before, and so have I. Now, that’s not to say that derivative material has no merit – if I were to spend my time only entertaining truly original innovation, my record collection would barely be in the double figures, not the triple-digit monstrosity that currently devours all and any available storage space. But, although individual tastes can always eek an extra mile out of a favorite template, where do we draw the line on those increasingly diluted recipes?
“Worship Her Fire” marks the album’s first and fastest. Rocking tempos drive underneath vocalist and bassist, Mikko Kääriäinen’s every-man delivery – his approach borrows a lot from Aaron Stainthorpe’s crystalline orations, but unfortunately lack the innate heartbreak. Occasionally, as on the chorus, a deathly snarl escapes to emphasize a verse, but seems strangely at odds with the tremulous croon that makes up the body of his vocal approach. MDB‘s plaintive playbook is pillaged more closely on the admittedly great “The Island Where Time Stands Still,” borrowing that band’s melancholic chord progressions in the verses before the song takes a far more energetic turn come its final throes. As a potent 1-2 combo, the song also rubs shoulders with the album’s title track and strongest offering. Lifting a few nuances from Kyuss in the initial verse before charging into a steady gallop, “Deranged Pagan Sons” maintained my attention with enough time signature changes – one thing Cadinals Folly aren’t afraid to play with – and a solo courtesy of guitarist, Juho Kilpeiä, who offers each song a tasteful lead, with shades of Gregor Mackintosh in their restraint.
There really isn’t any material here deserving of overt criticism; Cardinals Folly know how to write their tried and true brand of doom, unashamedly wearing their influences on their sleeves. And in the confines of the record’s duration, that’s absolutely fine, but as with most acts that color a little too closely inside the lines, when the idiosyncrasies of the authorities that have so clearly informed the writing process throw back the hood, I found it impossible to resist the urge to play those records instead. “Three Bladed Doom” and “Suicide Commando” so glaringly revere the Reverend, that without fail, I played Crush the Insects after every spin of Deranged Pagan Sons – although that may not be an entirely bad thing, I suspect Cardinals Folly may disagree.
Here is a record perfectly capable and often enjoyable, promoting sizeable riffs and a guitar tone dry enough to choke a dozen camels. But here is also a record ultimately lacking in that requisite dynamism to keep my interests well and truly with the Cardinal. If this iteration of doom floats your proverbial boat – and bear in mind, it definitely does mine – then I can’t really justify not recommending you at least check these funerary Fins out. I strongly suspect, however, that when that Folly fails, you will almost certainly find yourself searching to slake a thirst for more a substantial brew, relegating Deranged Pagan Sons to another gossamer memory – pleasing in the moment, but inevitably carried away on the breeze.