Here at the Sleeping Village, we keep our most revered albums in....a very special place. Their time may have gone, but they are certainly not forgotten. Today's pick: another one of The Voiceless Apparition's all-time favorites. Read on!
Written by: The Voiceless Apparition
Hello everyone. Here is part II of my retrospective review series. Today I'm going to be reviewing the second studio album from Chicago dark metal pioneers Novembers Doom. Entitled Of Sculpted Ivy and Stone Flowers, this album was released on May 25th, 1999. This album marks a huge shift in the band's sound compared to their debut album, as they almost completely shed their death/doom bruteness (not entirely) and went instead for a more melancholy and melodic gothic metal sound.
The album begins on a melancholic note, as "With Rue and Fire" is a hauntingly painful song. Drowning in despair and regret, this song pulls at your heartstrings. With such heartbreaking lyrics like: "In some sick way, I enjoy my pain/It always seems to indulge me," you can't help but feel for vocalist Paul Kuhr as he belts out growls with such agony and conviction. "The Jealous Sun" picks up the pace a little bit, albeit with dynamic and mood shifts. I really liked the choice of layering the growls and clean vocals together in the first verse, it gives it more of an epic feeling to it. Major praise needs to be given to guitarist Eric Burnley as his choice of chords and melodies is fantastic. Towards the 4:00 mark we segue into a beautiful section of gorgeous clean guitars and the amazing vocals of Cathy Jo Hejna.
"Suffer the Red Dream" starts out really somber and soft with more beautiful clean guitar. While this track has it's heavier moments, the soft and melodic side of the band takes reign on this song. I also cannot emphasize that Paul Kuhr is one of the most underrated lyricists of all time. He really articulates sorrow, despair, and regret perfectly, especially with lyrics like: "Your smile doesn't help me and your laughter holds no joy/I never asked for your pity, or your worthless love." Powerful and heartbreaking, but nonetheless poetic. We are now led into the majesty of "All the Beauty Twice Again," a near-ballad led by the beautiful vocals of Cathy Hejna and Paul occasionally joining in. The melodies used in this song are absolutely breathtaking: so soothing, yet bright and at the same time melancholic. I also love the inclusion of the acoustic guitars, it really adds even more to the atmosphere.
"Reaping Forest Calm" starts the second half of the album on a darker and heavier note. Beefy riffs, beastly growls, and a barrage of classy double bass work courtesy of the amazing Sascha Horn. I'm like a broken record, but once again the lyrics are genius, there's one particular line that speaks to me: "I must have you for one last time, and I will pay for my sins, with one-thousand lashes from the roses stem to the very chest that holds my beating heart." Absolute poetry, and I cannot begin to describe how powerful and deep that line hits me. Followup track "For Every Leaf That Falls" is a masterpiece and one of the numerous highlights on this album. The guitar melodies are weeping, the vocals are fantastic, the drumming is classy, and the lyrics. I don't want to point out any specific lyrics because every line in this song is gold and it needs to be read by your eyes. Everything about this song is perfect.
After the gorgeous interlude that is the clean guitar-only "Serenity Forgotten" we are led into " Forever With Unopened Eye." While this is certainly a more energetic song, it's also catchy as fuck. The main riff in the song is infectious, it's extremely hooky and melodic but crushing too. Also, the fucking solo in this song is masterfully done! The album ends with the epic and dynamic "Dawn Breaks". There's so much going on in this song: gorgeous soft sections, crushing heaviness, and a desire for exploration. While I have to admit that this is my least favorite song on the album, it's only because of how high of quality the other songs were on the album. It's still a fantastic way to end this stunning album.
Of Sculpted Ivy and Stone Flowers is an album that was potentially detrimental to the band. If this album had failed at what its goal was, this might have stalled the trajectory this band has gained. Instead, not only did they succeed, they excelled at their goal. This is the album that truly set apart Novembers Doom from a typical death/doom metal band, into being a diverse, atmospheric, and poetic dark metal band. This album will forever remain a tied favorite of mine (we'll get to the other album down the line) and cemented Novembers Doom as one of my favorite band's of all time. A masterful album from start to finish. This is beyond strongly recommended; this is NECESSARY listening!
Novembers Doom - Of Sculpted Ivy and Stone Flowers was released 1999 from Martyr Music
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry.
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