On Thorns I Lay have had an unusual career arc, evolving from doom death into goth rock and eventually alt-rock weirdness. After a 12 year period of inactivity, these Greeks reinvented themselves as a doomy melodeath act and 2018s Aegean Sorrow mixed elements of Insominium and the early Peaceville titans adroitly for an impressive platter of sadboi death. Threnos sees them sprinkling a wee bit more of their old doom style into their melodeath sound and upping the orchestral/symphonic influences as well, with sullen violin and piano getting more airtime as they lay the melancholy on thick and heavy. This all seems like a fairly natural evolution from their last platter, which in and of itself is something unusual for these mercurial misfits, and when they nail that mopey melodeath sound, they really nail it. But that doesn’t mean Threnos is without speed bumps.
Basically the album is a tale of two halves. The first is highly effective melancholic death with just the right amount of doom and bittersweet despair. Opener “The Song of Sirens” is quite beautiful and captivating while remaining heavy and imposing. It doesn’t offer anything you haven’t heard on the average Finnish melodeath platter but it does the style great justice and the song pops with power and atmosphere. It reminds me of the Black Vanity era of Cemetery, which is a good thing as that album is criminally underappreciated and ignored1. “Ouranio Deos” borrows key pages from Amorphis‘ Tales From the Thousand Lakes era for another gorgeous tapestry of sadness with violin interludes recalling the salad days of My Dying Bride. Both “Cosmic Silence” and “Erynies” offer uplifting, lilting harmonies alongside heavy riffs and booming death growls, and the latter includes some nifty Hammond organ for a nice change of pace and mood.
Things don’t fall off the cliff as the album moves past the halfway point, but there is a noticeable decline in engagement from “Misos” onward to the album’s denouement. “Misos” is not a bad song by any stretch, but its more simplistic, plodding style and Amon Amarth-adjacent battle riffs just doesn’t resonate as deeply, though it does grow with repeat listens. More problematic is the title track. It’s old school doom death like early Amorphis, which is 100% my steel wheelhouse, and things start out compelling enough, reminding me at times of Edge of Sanity‘s Crimson. However, it ends up feeling too monotonous over its 7-plus minute run. If it was a 4-5 minute tune, it would work well, but as it stands it just drags on too long for its own good. Closer “Odysseia” is longer still at nearly 10 minutes, but thankfully works a bit better due to more engaging melodies and a variety of moods. It still ends up feeling several minutes overlong, but it features some enchanting moments and melodies to get lost in along the way.
At 45:11 Threnos feels longer than it should due to the back-end bog down, but the first half flies by effortlessly. The album sounds immaculate as it was mixed and mastered by Dan “the Fucking MAN” Swanö. The guitars have a big crunch, the drums have a deep rich power, and the violins and keyboards fit in just right without over-saturating the music. Chris Dragamestianos and Akis Pastras once again bring some impressive doom and death riffs to the table, but it’s their sad, trilling harmonies that really seal the deal and make the music so captivating. Stefanos Kintzoglou delivers another good vocal performance with deep, reverberating death roars, though at times I found myself wishing for some kind of change up in delivery where there is none to be had apart from a few spoken word segments.
Threnos is a good slab of doomy melodeath with a great first half. I wish the song writing was more consistent throughout, but even the lesser songs are still fairly worthwhile. I like this new era of On Thorns I Lay and hope they continue in this direction for a while. If you’re in the market for an album to scratch that sadboi melodeath itch, this may just do the trick, flaws and all.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Lifeforce Records
Websites: onthornsilay.net | onthornsilay.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/onthornsilay
Releases Worldwide: February 21st, 2020