Long time readers of Angry Metal Guy Blogworks and Important Opinion Emporium, Ltd., know I have a soft spot for sadboy melancholic doom. This led me to heap praise on Swallow the Sun‘s mammothly meandering, overblown triple album suite, Songs of the North back in 2013. In the fullness of time, I downgraded the original score on my Contrite Metal Guy confessional, and hard lessons were learned: Some albums are simply too long-winded to work as well as they should. Now comes Australian act, The Eternal and their sixth album, Waiting for the Endless Dawn. After a decade of releasing goth rock albums no harder than the average H.I.M. output, it seems the band wanted to dial-up the doom, releasing their heaviest and longest album to date. It’s the kind of weepy goth-doom made famous by acts like Paradise Lost and Sentenced, with elements of doom-death sprinkled in for extra soul crushing. Considering this is a new approach for the band, they nail the hell out of the style, with a collection of effective and emotional songs tailor-made for sadboys and girls. So, what’s the problem, you ask? Well, this thing is an hour and fifteen minutes long, and it feels it1. Though it isn’t three hours in length, it still creates a kind of Songs of the North dilemma for your friendly neighborhood Steel Druhm. When is long too long, even if the songs themselves are solid?
As if to test the patience of even the most stoic listeners, Waiting opens with a 20 minute odyssey dubbed “The Wound.” And boy does the song take its sweet time getting moving, offering sedate, moody keyboards and gradually (and I mean gradually) building guitar noodlings. It isn’t until 3:30 that the first real riff appears, and vocals make a leisurely appearance around the 7 minute mark. As unhurried as the song is, it’s actually quite good, and gets better and better as it crawls along, with forlorn vocals and an overall feeling of loss, regret and despair. Throughout you’ll hear hints of the different eras of Paradise Lost, as well as Black Sun Aeon and Heavenwood, and the band shows they know how to write a gripping piece of music. “Rise From Agony” is better still, sounding like vintage Draconian with a chorus that I haven’t been able to shake for weeks. Here, the 11-minute length feels light by comparison, as do the 12-minutes of “A Cold Day to Face My Failures,” which remind me a lot of Heavenwood‘s recent album, at least until the uber death roars make their first appearance, lending the song an The 11th Hour vibe.
Later cut “In the Lilac Dusk” is full on doom death with a healthy My Dying Bride influence and a lush, beautiful soundscape which keeps drawing me back. There isn’t a weak song present and all have their own interesting mood and depressive dynamic. The only problem is the epic length of the thing. By the end of the fourth track, you’ve already been through 52 minutes of downcast grimness, and though the later songs are very good, it’s hard to give them the same level of attention and engagement. My brain tells me the album should wrap around 50 minutes, but over 25 minutes remain to be explored. This is what makes scoring the album such a challenge. I rate every song individually between 3.5 and 4.0, but it’s very difficult to sit through the entire album.
Recorded over 3 years, Waiting sounds cohesive and vibrant. There’s a subtle, restrained use of keyboards and ambient effects that never overwhelm the guitars, and the music is exceedingly well crafted, if in need of some editing and trimming at times. Mark Kelson handled all the vocals and shared guitar duty, while also providing mandolin and lap steel segments. The man is blessed with the ideal goth metal voice, sounding damaged and despondent. His clean vocals are passionate and his death vocals are shockingly brutal2. The band is unusually adept at creating this kind of Debbie Downer metal considering it’s not something they’ve done before, and I’m left highly impressed with what they accomplished here on a song by song basis.
Waiting for the Endless Dawn is a tough nut to crack. It’s a slog to get through, but all the songs are worthwhile. I can’t even say this track or that should have been cut, as all lend something to the overall package. That package however, is just too freaking extensive to swallow in one sitting. There’s a very good to great album hiding here, encased in a baffling time trap. Expect loads of quality, but bring plenty of patience (and tissues).