I’m a busy man. Too fucking busy. So much so that I will freely admit to feeling overwhelmed. I’m missing deadlines at work, in my personal life and, worst of all, here at AMG. What I’m lacking is that delicate balance that capriciously flutters through our lives. The kind of stability that casually sinks any pressure into the spacial anomaly of our subconscious. The same equilibrium that all great second albums must be weighed against. Two years ago I reviewed the self-titled debut of Australia’s Illimitable Dolor, a project carved from the members of The Slow Death to illuminate the loss of their friend and band mate Gregg Williamson. It was a feast of death-doom delights with a bold sense of atmosphere to truly define the plundered depths. Now, the band have returned with Leaden Light and a mind clearly bent on expansion. But a broadening of such bereaved horizons requires mass. And sometimes too much is simply too much.
Leaden Light wastes very little time in showcasing just how much this sonic canvas has been pored over. The album places a much greater emphasis on atmosphere and almost does away entirely with the death metal influence. To this end, the debut’s propensity for the occasional crushing riff sequence is now absent. Instead, the album is largely comprised of an amalgamation of churning passages and introspective chord progression, all backed by Stuart Prickett’s increasingly elemental vocals. “Armed He Brings the Dawn” is a perfect introduction. The song utilizes an array of familiar crestfallen leads and keys to heighten the senses before plunging the tempo back into the beyond. Guy Moore’s work behind the keyboard is crucial in lending such crescendos more than a touch of Evoken‘s genius.
Unfortunately, the longer I spent with Leaden Light, the more insistent a sense of homogeneity became. This is due, in no small part, to an unwillingness to deviate from pace. Even the most extreme doom albums splice their funeral proceedings with a brief fluctuation in riffing. Despite the occasional swell of drummer John McLaughlin’s double bass work, Leaden Light feels more and more like one great song stretched over fifty plus minutes. “Horses Pale and Four” and “Leaden Light Her Coils” are wrought of evocative and deeply immersive compounds. But, with the slight exception of the latter, the songs are so reminiscent of the opener that after almost a month of listening, I still struggle to identify them. Sadly, this also somewhat neutralizes the closing instrumental “2.12.14,” thus titled for the date of Williamson’s passing.
Although, admittedly, it has no particular bearing on the quality of the content, Leaden Light‘s nomenclature appears rather susceptible to some of the genre’s more rank pretensions. At some point the band either gave in to their burning devotion to subordinate clauses or they spend way too much time on Dagobah. Either way, it’s all a tad trite. Of course so are Evoken and Esoteric, but their material waxes grandiloquent for them without having to rely on manufactured gravitas. It all smacks of a little too much egg within the proverbial pudding. However, there can be no denying the devotion that Illimitable Dolor have plied the album with. Guitarists Stuart Prickett and Dan Garcia are worthy of particular mention for providing each aural brush stoke with the most minute of layers.
Leaden Light represents a real challenge to quantify. Qualitatively, it’s really very good, but the creative choices just can’t traverse the entire record. Especially in a year already endowed with such sterling doom. Plenty of listeners will fervently disagree, but I can’t shake off a feeling of synthetic depth, which kills any replay value. Prickett and co. have been faced with a mammoth task. Not only did they have to follow up a very well-received debut, but they also had to write a sequel to a dedication. Leaden Light arrives replete with broad shoulders but a telling lack of stamina. The direction, however, is positively gilt. With a few fundamental amendments, I expect Illimitable Dolor‘s next album to relinquish the lead-based oils so as to finally work with their very own antithesis of light.