Supreme overlord and beloved Great Leader Angry Metal Guy recently suggested that we don’t lead into our reviews talking about genre, in the interest of avoiding redundancy. Moreover, I’d imagine that the average AMG listener doesn’t really need a lesson on thrash metal 101, right? That’s because, in many cases, it does a disservice to band’s artistic uniqueness – isn’t it better to discuss the band, rather than its relationship to the genre it would appear to work within? I wish I could say that was possible with The Wounded Kings, but this Dartmoor-based five piece do little if not play to a genre, which is that of Sabbath-ian Electric Wizard worship.
Consolamentum’s four main tracks are nonetheless anchored by the ghostly, emotive vocals of Sharie Nayland, who made her debut with the Kings on In the Chapel of the Black Hand… On opener “Gnosis,” she wails with blues-inflected gloom and a great deal of rough, untrained swagger reminiscent of a young Ozzy Osbourne – it’s not hard to see a deliberate homage to the figure in black when a reverb-drenched Neyland howls “I saw the deviiiiil, he made my shadows fleeeeeeeeeesh”. Nayland delivers Sabbath-ian portents of doom with a palpable sense of fear and morbidity, and on cuts such as title track “Consolamentum” she becomes intoxicated by it as she abandons the lyrics entirely and closes the piece with ghoulish wailing.
It’s Neyland’s electrifying vocals that really carry the Kings past mere Electric Wizard and Sabbath worship into a doom sound of note, but that’s not to diminish the talents of the remaining four members. Be assured, axeman and founder Steve Mills has few tricks up his sleeve – like previous outings, Consolamentum does away with superfluity and aims the needle straight into the listener’s Dopethrone-receptors, liberally administering enough tube amp narcotizations and stuporous analog atmospherics to cause an afterglow effect if played a little too loud. The title track achieves this most effectively by far, leading with frigid, eerie keys that belie the lurching, beastlike bottom end, creating an awesome effect when the band comes in all at once with an open-chord meteor strike.
“But JF Williams,” you may ask, “for all your pretentious, alliterative talk of tone and blatant drug references, you haven’t said a thing about the songwriting!” Yeah, I know. That’s because this is the part of the review where I say something along the lines of “if you like doom, check it out. If you don’t like doom, there is nothing you’ll like here.” The Wounded Kings are a group that evidently know through-and-through the genre conventions of this particular style of doom, but aside from the expressive, idiosyncratic vocals of Neyland and incredible production, Consolamentum isn’t terribly memorable.
Cuts like “The Silence” and to a lesser extent, “Lost Bride” seem to rely on open-chord atmosphere alone to carry them through their mammoth running times, lacking much in the way of groove (or a little bit more of that bluesy stank in the riffing) that could have broken up the monotony and guided The Wounded Kings out of simply playing a genre well and into developing a more distinctive sound.
But what do I know? Lord knows there are more than enough genre purists and tone worshippers who will find plenty to enjoy here nonetheless. It’s obvious that The Wounded Kings have a lot going for them, but count me amongst those who hope future releases will bring along more songwriting idiosyncrasies to their sonic vocabulary.