The Final Sleep – Vessels of Grief Review

The fusion of death metal and doom metal is something I’ve never fully embraced as a purveyor of the heavy and hard-hitting. I mean, I should have, a long time ago—death metal is usually more extreme than I’m in the mood for and doom metal is great, if occasionally too un-speedy, so the blending should work. Sometimes it does—Rise to the Sky has certainly made a fan of me—but it just isn’t something I often seek out. When I first sampled The Final Sleep, a five-piece band from the United States of whom four are guitarists (yes, one of them is a bassist), I was drawn to the almost-progressive style of the vaguely doom-ish death metal on their sophomore release Vessels of Grief. Enough to win me over? I’ll let you know in a second.

The Final Sleep boasts a fairly straightforward setup—apart from the unusually high number of guitarists, they’ve got a clean singer, a harsh vocalist, and a lot of solid riffs. But one of the more interesting elements of Vessels of Grief is its sheer lack of predictability. Despite the relative simplicity of the band’s makeup and style, there’s enough variety in their playing to keep the listener perpetually on their toes, and even after multiple spins of the album, I find myself realizing that I still don’t fully expect everything I hear. There are enough choruses and repeating sections to keep songs coherent, but most still stand as veritable labyrinths of riffs, leads, and structures. “Until It Ends” may be my favorite, with roars, catchy cleans, wild solos, awesome riffs, and super lush drumming. The variability is certainly a good thing, though there are moments across the album I wouldn’t have minded hearing more than once, like the acoustic intro to “Eternal.” Still, Vessels of Grief seems to fulfill its primary purpose, which, in my estimation, seems to be bringing on the heavy and having a good time while it’s at it—though its repeated sections do tend to be its brightest moments.

Fortunately, there are some really solid choruses across the album that take full advantage of Jeff Andrews’s clean singing. In a band where most members are holding the same instrument, The Final Sleep absolutely needs that counterpoint to keep things fresh, and while Vessels of Grief does not want for lead guitar melodies and solos, a good deal of the album’s melody can be traced back to Andrews. One of his most memorable moments comes right at the end of the album, his backing calls making the chorus of “Eternal” surprisingly catchy. Between this and the energetic guitar work, and especially in moments like the wild solo towards the end of “Funeral Seed,” The Final Sleep comes across as a confident band writing catchy music that still treads reasonably well across death-doom landscapes.

With so much going on over the course of Vessels of Grief, it’s unfortunate that not everything lands. I can’t help but feel that “Screaming in Silence” kicks off the album on the wrong foot—the opening solo feels slightly mismatched with the rest of the song, and Andrews’s singing takes on a -core-esque style in its verses that doesn’t suit the music as well as his later performances. Further, there are a few pacing issues that make the album feel like it’s dragging a bit towards the end. Despite only containing six songs over forty minutes, the sheer amount of stuff going on makes it feel both like more than six songs and more than forty minutes. It’s all good quality content, but I can’t help but feel like it is a bit much when it’s all finished. A little extra editing might have gone a long way towards improving my experience with the album.

Still, it does succeed at a lot, and I’ve really enjoyed my time with Vessels of Grief. It’s a lively, excitable album that doesn’t hold back in terms of heaviness, nor does it need to in order to impress. There’s a lot going on here, and The Final Sleep don’t lack for ideas, but I hope the next album is a touch more consistent. Still, these guys have a good thing going here, and one way or the other, I’ll be looking forward to that next album.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: |
Released Worldwide: February 4th, 2022

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