Hailing from St Petersburg, Russia, Dominia are a gothic doom four-piece now in their 19th year. The Withering of the Rose is Dominia’s fifth full-length record, sitting alongside a host of demos, EPs and compilations. The Withering is the follow-up to 2017’s Stabat Mater, which represented another slab of heavy gothic metal in Dominia’s catalog, as violins and keys did battle with harsh vocals and doomy riffs. Does the latest offering from Dominia see further growth or, well, a withering on the vine?
Combining a heavy, gothic riff-driven sound with a doom-laden atmosphere, The Withering is hardly a revolution when viewed against the rest of Dominia’s back catalog. Owing as much to Lacuna Coil as to early Paradise Lost, the basic mold sees simple but effective drumming pounding beneath mid-paced Candlemass-esque riffage, while lead vocalist Anton Rosa howls and growls his lungs out. Clean vocals are introduced a short way into the album, changing up the mood, although not always for the better. When the cleans and the growls are dual-tracked, as on “Entombed in Grief,” they are an effective and emotive combination. The cleans themselves, however, are of neither the same quality nor consistency as the dirty vocals (see, for example, the lyrically… um… simplistic “The Elephant Man”).
Building on the other influences, new violinist Mikhail Morozkin (who joined in 2019) adds a real sense of delicate melody to The Withering’s overall sound, adding both an extra dimension to heavier tracks (“The Light of the Black Sun,” which also sees drummer Oleg “Papa” Filistovich stray into almost black metal territory) while carrying the more melodic, ballad-y numbers (“Suprema”, “Nomoreus” and the title track). Morozkin really comes into his own on the folky “The Night and the Dark Room,” however, which recalls some of the softer moments of Opeth’s Morningrise, and it’s a shame that Dominia didn’t make more of this. Delicate and mature, “The Night and the Dark Room” demonstrates what these Russians could deliver. An album building on what’s on show there and the heavier Paradise Lost-inspired parts of the record (“Entombed in Grief”) could be something quite exciting.
The trouble is that it’s very hard to get excited about what The Withering actually delivers in practice. Dominia don’t do anything exactly wrong—that weird keening screech at the end of “The Light of the Black Sun” and some of the slightly high-school lyrics excepted—but the album as a whole feels tired and like I’ve heard it before. This slight feeling of tedium is only exacerbated by the almost 70-minute runtime. There simply isn’t enough quality material or songwriting on show here to support that kind of length, as the aptly-named “The Song That You Don’t Like (Bonus Track)” neatly demonstrates, closing the album with something of a whimper. The production is also muddy, particularly on the doomier tracks, where the guitar tone loses a lot of definition.
The Withering is far from a disaster and there are parts of it that I quite enjoyed (particularly, but not only, Morozkin’s performance on violin) but the quality on show here varies wildly, making it difficult to recommend Dominia’s latest proffering. Were The Withering a pithy 40-minute thing, I would be inclined to say give it a bash if you like your doom-tinged gothic metal as there are things to enjoy here. But it’s very hard to genuinely suggest wading through the 70-odd minutes of material to find them.