Pale Divine – Consequence of Time Review

Generally speaking, bands don’t wait until their 25th year in existence to hit their peak. Don’t tell that to Pale Divine though. Pennsylvania’s best kept secret has been quietly churning out beefy classic doom albums since the turn of the century, basing their sound around Trouble, Black Sabbath and Pentagram, with a gritty biker rock edge making everything feel sturdy and muscular. Their 2018 self-titled platter sat right in my doom wheelhouse and I enjoyed it, but it didn’t do quite enough to push itself to that next level of essential listening. Since then the band added second guitarist and vocalist Dana Ortt (ex-Beelzefuzz) and retooled their sound, incorporating dual vocals, a veritable ass-ton of ear catching harmonies, and a strong 70s prog rock influence. The resulting album, Consequence of Time, is easily their best release yet and one of the most enjoyably rocked out doom albums you’ll hear this year. It also ably demonstrates the enormous impact a smart personnel move can have, even for a band that’s been knocking around for a quarter century. Time, man….

The major changes don’t all appear at once. Opener “Tyrants & Pawns (Easy Prey)” is classic Pale Divine, with the burly vocals of Greg Diener leading the way along with straight forward doom riffing containing a strong Trouble vibe. Though the song is what you would expect from the band, it’s more lively and a bit more adventurous due to some slick guitar-work, and when Dana Ott’s vocals come in one the back end they add a whole new layer to the sound. It’s followup cut, “Satan in Starlight” where the big leap forward becomes apparent. From the opening lead line, it sounds like an entirely different act. Dana takes the lead and his higher register delivery recalls Yes‘ Jon Anderson. When his vocals are paired with righteous riffwork that sounds like it evolved from Black Sabbath‘s immortal “A National Acrobat,” the band flies at altitudes never before seen. This is easily one of my favorite songs of 2020 and I simply will not and can not stop playing it. Nearly everything about it is perfection and the guitar-work is pure melodic fire.

Elsewhere the 70s prog influenced really lower the boom, as on “Broken Martyr,” which is essentially the sound of Yes penning a doom metal tune. Dana’s smooth, clear vocals glide high as bluesy doom riffs and harmonies bubble and seethe below, and the end result is shockingly catchy and slick. “Phantasmagoria” also bears traces of Yes but throws in tons of biker doom riffing a la Victor Griffin’s In-Graved project. The album’s big showcase is the 10-plus minute title track which has to be experienced. It’s such a mammoth collection of awesome riffs and glorious harmonies, it could be 20 minutes and I’d still love it to death. There’s a very strong Black Sabbath circa Sabbath Bloody Sabbath vibe present in the riffs and Greg and Dana lend their vocal talents smartly as this doom titan unspools and stomps across your brain wrinkles. A high-quality riff appears, is fully utilized (but never overused) and is promptly replaced by another one1 with plenty of breaks given for jammy doom noodling as the song motors along as easily as a portly child on a Slip N’ Slide.™ It’s a shockingly easy spin considering its length, and every listen reveals neat little details you missed earlier. This is the good stuff, people.

Are there downsides? Well, yes. As Old Man Huck strenuously observed, the drumming isn’t very hard hitting, and the way it’s mixed makes it sound neutered, as if Darin McCloskey was flicking the skins rather than bashing them. Additionally, not every song can measure up to the sonic power of the highlights, though no track is anywhere near bad. At just under 43 minutes, this is a rocking spin overloaded with moments guaranteed to get your head bobbing and your air guitar fingers flying. I can’t say enough about the guitar-work on this thing. Greg and Dana pull out all the stops, littering ever song with ear catching riffs and harmonies. It’s as upbeat as a doom album will ever get, yet it still feels like doom. I also can’t say enough about the difference Dana’s vocals make. While Greg is a solid vocalist, he’s a bit limited. With Dana on board, the music opens up greatly and allows the band to explore far more territory. This is just a stunning performance turn around for a well traveled act.

Consequence of Time is the sound of a band finding its legs late in life and experiencing the joys of running through brave new lands. Pale Divine was always reliable and solid, now they’re something much more. I can’t proclaim this the doom album of the year just yet, but I have a suspicion it will be tough to knock off the stage. If you want your doom loaded with prog and hard rock excess and designed to hook your ear and brain equally, you need to get your hands on this one. Time waits for no man.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Cruz Del Sur
Websites: paledivine1.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/serpentspath
Releases Worldwide: June 26th, 2020

 

Show 1 footnote

  1. I especially love the lead that crops up at 6:00.
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