Elderseer – Drown in the Shallowness Review

There seems to be a wellspring of gothic doom in the promo hopper in early 2023, and I’m okay with that. Coming off a heated love affair with Tribunal, I eagerly scooped up the debut by U.K. doomsters, Elderseer and hoped for a similar love connection. Their full-length debut adopts a style in the vein of My Dying Bride, Celestial Season,  and early Paradise Lost, with long, winding songs telling tales of great misery and woe. And at a mammoth 68-minute runtime, Drown in the Shallowness delivers more than your fair share of sadcakes and grief biscuits, with song lengths ranging from 7 to 10 minutes and a premium placed on deep emotional unburdening. Sound like a good way to spend a cold winter night? If so, follow Steel into the shallows of despair and brace for feelz.

There’s an obvious love for the early days of the gothic doom genre on display across Drown in the Shallowness, with much of the material deeply rooted in the early to mid-90s. The same kind of laconic pacing My Dying Bride and Anathema made famous is present on cuts like the 10-minute opener “Gilded Shackles,” along with a strong commitment to the genre’s typical tropes. Slow-motion weeping doom riffs are well paired with miserable death croaks that remind strongly of early career Nick Holmes, and Paradise Lost vibes imbue the guitar work as well with various riffs and phrasings recalling what Greg Mackintosh has done or would do. A simple, sparse piano line accompaniment rounds out the tried-and-true genre elements, and the song is quite engaging and enthralling if occasionally a bit awkward and hammy. “Under a Dark Sky” drills deeper into the goth side of things with vague Lake of Tears elements showing up alongside standard My Dying Bride-isms. The slightly upbeat pace offers a faint ray of sunshine without losing the grey-on-gray emotional profile.

Long morose songs give way to longer more morose ones and while no track is bad, the band’s steadfast refusal to trim or downsize makes the nearly 70 minutes a daunting voyage through the near-eternal night. Some of the best moments reside on the back half but by the time you get there, you can expect to be fairly strung out and weary. Later track “The World is Your Cloister” is a really good doom song, alternating menacing, ominous moments with soul-crushing heaviness and the riffs maintain a very specific mood this genre thrives upon. The 9 minutes pass much faster than you might expect too. Both “The Struggle is Ethereal” and massive closer “Bind Us as One” are also very good and nail the style while offering enough mope to hang yourself with several times over. The latter is a particularly impressive example of maintaining interest throughout 10 minutes of depressive doom noodling. While “This Aesthetic Life” is the least enticing cut, it isn’t bad and has its share of worthwhile moments. It’s hard to find a lot of fault with the songcraft beyond the very obvious notion that each song could shed a minute or three and be the better for it. That said, the bloat isn’t the usual kind where you feel a song should end at a specific point and it doesn’t. Here it’s more the culminating effect of too many long songs strung together.

The guitarwork by Barry Copestake and Vinny Konrad (ex-Pagan Altar) is dead on for this style and loaded with tooth-loosening riffs and weepy, despondent harmonies. Every song is rife with classically sadboi lines and their slick playing makes the long-form formula tolerable and enjoyable. Copestake also does a good job with his harsh vocals, injecting a rawness and ugliness to the trilling, drifting harmonies and helps keep things grim and dire. Clean vocals are used very sparingly and remind me a lot of Darkseed’s Stefan Hertrich. More cleans would have been a good way to shake things up, but overall the vocals are a win. Aside from an awkward transition here and there, the playing and composing are quite solid. It’s just the trimming and tidying that get neglected.

Drown in the Shallowness is a very long album with long songs and there’s a lot here to like. If it was 10-15 minute shorter the score would have clicked up a notch, as I do enjoy what Elderseer are doing quite a bit. This reminds me a lot of Waiting for the Endless Dawn by The Eternal, another album I enjoyed but found too overstuffed for its own good. I can see some being unwilling or unable to wade across its entirety and allow it to sink into their consciousness. It’s worth the effort though and I look forward to hearing more from Elderseer. Nutshell version: Doom is a lifestyle choice.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Meuse Music
Websites: elderseer.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/elderseer
Releases Worldwide: February 3rd, 2023

« »