Shattered Hope – Vespers Review

Like raw black metal, funeral doom operates at the extremely thin edge of an extremely niche wedge. Long, patient, languid tracks put many to sleep with their glacial pace. But glaciers carry enormous momentum as a result of their sheer mass. For those who appreciate it, funeral doom provides an unparalleled — and often profound — journey through grief and sorrow. Greece’s Shattered Hope offer their third attempt at this tricky genre with Vespers. Veterans to the scene, Shattered Hope have always flown under the radar. But now, in a year of some profoundly excellent funeral doom releases, Shattered Hope’s latest collection is a fascinating addition to that canon.

No one does tragedy quite like the Greeks. The metal from that country is often infused with an eternal sense of despair, and in this respect, Vespers is no different. An absolutely devastating atmosphere pervades the album from start to finish. There is no light here; no hope or absolution. What prevents Vespers from being a boring suffer-fest, however, is the manner with which Shattered Hope chooses to convey its emotions: by dialing down the crushing guitars to create a slightly sparser atmosphere. This results in a relatively minimalistic, stripped-back aesthetic that creates some breathing room for the band to be able to explore unusual and atypical avenues. Don’t get me wrong, this is still as heavy as a sack of anvils… it’s just not only heavy.

Unlike many contemporaries, Shattered Hope doesn’t aim to completely crush the listener (like Atramentus,) or drown them in a sea of chaos and madness (ahem, Convocation). Rather, the band creates a palpable sense of dread through the clever combination of the basic tenets of the genre (wretched vocals, ultra-slow time signals, massive chord changes) tinged with an occasional progressive flavor. This mostly works a treat. The song “Verge,” for example, has a restless, capering beat which pivots on its doom foundation, while “Towards the Land of Deception” has parts that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Tool album. This aesthetic is complemented by some nice touches including occasional clean vocals (“Συριγμός), violins (“The Judas Tree”), and acoustic guitars. The album is paced like an ominous journey: the atmosphere becomes bleaker as it progresses, so by the end it’s as suffocating as anything by Bell Witch or Lycus.

The only real downside to all the funeral doom goodness is that while Vespers has a lot of great moments, it just seems to lack that killer blow. Part of the problem is the sheer length of both the songs and the album. 5 tracks, all over 10 minutes in length. When things are this long, it’s hard to avoid filler. Vespers, unfortunately, is no exception. In addition, music like this lives or dies by the catharsis of the climax, and while Shattered Hope never drops the ball, it doesn’t smash it out the park, either. “In Cold Blood,” for example, features a beautiful solo towards the end of its run-time, which would have been the perfect spot to end the track. Instead, we have a spoken passage over wandering guitars that simply circle each other before petering out. In place of peaks and valleys, Vespers is more hills and streams. That’s not a terrible thing to be, but it means the album lacks the epic vastness of the greats.

Look, I get it, 3.0s are a tough sell. Funeral doom 3.0s are even tougher because everyone seems to have the concentration span of a gnat these days.1 Not to mention there’s all those pesky 4.0s floating around.2 If you’re not a funeral doom fan, this is not the album to finally change your mind, despite its embrace of a more progressive sound. But, if you have a soft spot for the grinding pressure of one of metal’s least beloved subgenres; if the sadboi albums of fall haven’t been nearly sadboi enough; if patience is a strength of yours; then go on and slap an extra 0.5 to that score. You’ll thank me later.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Solitude Productions
Websites: shatteredhope.bandcamp.com  |  facebook.com/shatteredhopeband
Releases Worldwide: November 6th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. I’m sorry, what were you saying? – Holdeneye
  2. I’m sorry, what were you saying? – Holdeneye
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