Valentine’s Day is normally reserved for lovers. Cards are exchanged, chocolates and red velvety things are consumed, uglies are bumped… Valentine’s Day is a time that romance, passion, and love fill the air. But you know what pairs well with VD? DOOM. Not just any doom metal, mind you, but rather oppressive, downtrodden, and lightless British DOOM, complete with bold typeface and italics. And who better to serve you that kind of doom than not one, but two former members of My Dying Bride? Yep, guitarist/vocalist Hamish Glencross and drummer Shaun Taylor-Steels spent years crafting painstaking doom together with MDB as well as separate stints in Anathema, Vallenfyre, and Solstice, and now they return to birth their new project, Godthrymm. One thing for certain is that their debut, Reflections, does not turn swans loose, nor does it reach for progressive leanings. Rather, Reflections is a love letter to the scene Glencross and Taylor-Steels originated from.
And what a love letter. Musically, Reflections sounds like if Paradise Lost stopped evolving after Gothic, but somehow, someway added enough modern touches to sound like a product of 2020. Right from the opening melody of “Monsters Lurk Herein,” you notice a faint resemblance to Pallbearer circa Foundations of Burden. Once the drums begin to kick in, and that opening riff turns distorted, the Gothic tinges reign. Glencross’ howling vocals recall Nick Holmes at his most downtrodden, further driving home the fact that this is a product of veterans with a pure love for their craft and style. Taylor-Steels’ plodding, thundering drums keep a low but heavy profile throughout the song’s entirety, only picking up the double-bass near the end. In keeping things simple and heavy, “Monsters Lurk Herein” does an incredible job in setting up the album.
From there, though, Reflections outright soars. Both “The Light of You” and “The Grand Reclamation” sees Glencross channeling his inner Robert Lowe (Solitude Aeturnus) with great effect, especially in the latter’s verses, which sees him bellowing in a powerful upper-mid range. His guitar and bass work haven’t lost a step, either, with “We Are the Dead” featuring some beautiful leads and tar-heavy bass lines. Highlights punctuate throughout Reflections, but easily the biggest comes in the form of penultimate track, “Cursed Are the Many.” Clocking in at a hefty nine-plus minutes with no wasted moments, “Cursed Are the Many” easily ranks up there with the best that Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride have offered throughout the decades, with mournful guitar melodies, methodically slow drumming, and Glencross delivering morose, howling cries of anguish. Hands down, this is one of the most miserable doom songs I’ve ever heard, and an easy candidate for Song o’ the Year if there ever was one.
Even the production is steeped in the 90’s, as Nathan Bailey expertly captured that classic Academy Studios sound while adding enough touches to bring Reflections to the modern day. The guitars and bass possess a ton of breathing room, never once overpowering each other. The lead guitar does take center stage, and it seems like Glencross dialed in Gregor Mackintosh’s old Gothic guitar pedal settings, as his lead tone is absolutely dead-on. I tried to find flaws, but all I can think of is this is the epitome of mood music in that being in a happy, sunny disposition would cause you to grab something else instead. No light escapes Reflections, but I wouldn’t want it any other way, honestly.
Barely into the second month of the 20’s, and already we have a monster of a DOOM album in Reflections. I was expecting to enjoy the album, due to the pedigree involved, but I didn’t expect the magnitude of how much Godthrymm crushes with all the sorrow and heft on display. Don’t go into Reflections thinking this will simply whet your appetite; this is a full-course meal of epic proportions. Digest with the one you love.