Written by: The Voiceless Apparition
Greetings to all of you people today! I hope you are having a great day. Let me just start off by saying that Novembers Doom is criminally underrated. For the past 30 years these gentlemen have been gradually evolving with such ease, without alienating their fanbase. Within these past 10 years, Novembers Doom have been taking a more progressive direction with each album, to their credit it's working and I'm happy to tell you that Nephilim Grove is a masterpiece and continues their evolution with new ideas but without sacrificing where they started.
The album begins on a strong note with the leadoff tracks "Petrichor" and "The Witness Marks, the former of which utilizes vocalist Paul Kuhr's ever-blossoming range. Guitarists Larry Roberts and Vito Marchese come out of the gate with a flurry of heavy, chunky riffs and then even it out with gorgeous melodies to accompany Mr. Kuhr during the chorus. Fantastic drum work from Gary Naples who compliments the heaviness with tasteful double-bass and fill work.
Bassist Mike Feldman breaks up the heaviness in the middle section with a technical yet tasteful bass solo that shows off his biggest influence, namely Steve Harris of Iron Maiden. I would also like to take a moment to highlight Paul's lyrical work because in the beginning of the 2nd verse to "The Witness Marks" it reads as follows: "The voice of God is silenced, as if the devil claws through the sky". A very powerful, poignant and almost sardonic statement. Fantastic guitar work as well, the way Larry and Vito sync in as soon as the song begins just makes you want to headbang so hard and of course Paul's vocals, his growls are even more beastly than ever while his clean vocals are so beautiful and is showing off his higher register. The next 2 tracks are where the album really shines, easily the top 2 songs on the album. Nephilim Grove is a sinister, gothic opus that revels in atmosphere and beauty. The guitars switch between divine clean melodies and then to a, dare I say, airy chorus riff that envelopes your entire body and transports you into the world that this song is speaking of. Once again Gary Naples comes in with what is probably his best drum performance to date, an amalgamation of soft, almost jazzy cymbal and snare play before exploding into the chorus with such elegance.
"What We Become" is quite honestly the most beautiful "ballad" that Novembers Doom has released. Bassist Mike Feldman begins the song with a sorrowful, melancholy bass lick that is played with such fragility and tenderness to help elevate the song. As is the running theme with this album review, oh my god this is Paul Kuhr's best vocal performance ever! You can feel the pain and emotion in his voice, absolutely heartfelt performance. If you can listen to this song and not feel any sort of emotional movement then I'm so sorry for you. One thing that also struck me while listening to this song is the section during the 2nd chorus where drummer Gary Naples keeps a nice steady double-bass pattern only to switch it up in the middle and go for a faster-paced approach of the same pattern, I thought that was really well done. Guitarist Larry Roberts deserves more recognition as well because the solo in this song is absolutely gorgeous and Mr. Roberts seems to channel David Gilmour within his phrasing, albeit metallic.
...And so ends the first half of the album.
Tracks 5 and 6 ramp up the energy again but without sacrificing melody and their penchant for exploration. There's an interesting section in "Adagio" where the band drops out from the song and then the song goes into what I could only describe as a static fuzz radio transmission while a beautiful keyboard section (courtesy of longtime collaborator Ben Johnson) sits in the background before exploding into another excellent solo from Larry. And now to another ripper of a tune, "Black Light" is easily the most brutal song on the album. The song begins with thrash-like power before once again exploding into an insanely catchy chorus that will not leave your head for days. Though not as memorable as some of the previous songs, it still remains a powerful piece by itself.
Once again we return to more melodic and emotional territory with "The Clearing Blind" but albeit heavier than "What We Become". The opening clean guitar melody is heavenly but still with a sinister edge and is a perfect setup to the rest of the song as the melody is reprised towards the end of every chorus and its effect is felt. Overall a very strong track with strong vocals and memorable melodies. "Still Wrath" returns to the heavier side again and with a mighty roar. Though this song is a little bit more stripped back compared to most of the other songs, the impact is still felt. The beginning riff gives me vibes of Nevermore's "Dead Heart in a Dead World" album and that's not a bad thing. It's groovy and with that hard progressive edge but without sacrificing tunefulness and hooks. My only complaint about this song is that it's maybe not as engaging some of the other songs, but once again it remains a strong song by itself. We end this journey with what is probably one of the most strange and engaging closing songs from a Novembers Doom album to date, "The Obelus". The song kicks in immediately in Novembers Doom fashion until a gorgeous post-metal melody comes in to throw you off (in a great way), very airy and atmospheric, it gives me images of watching a sunset in the middle of an open field but fear not Novembers Doom fans, this still feels very much like a song that they would write, Another interesting point is in the middle of the song we get another brutally heavy section which once again utilizes Paul's beastly growl but this section feels much more powerful than some of the other songs. It's definitely a fantastic and high note to end this album on.
I also would like to special notice to the production courtesy of Chris Wisco and mixed by none other than the almighty Dan Swano. Mr. Swano really nailed the mix on this album, the tones sound natural, but still very much a heavy-sounding album, and also with a lot of room for dynamics and layers. Mr. Wisco really seems to have helped them continually hone their sound and progress at the same time
Even while still holding on to those elements that they began with (growls, heaviness, emotion), Novembers Doom have moved away from being a pure doom/death metal and have blossomed into a fantastic dark progressive metal band with doom, death, and gothic metal elements to help fuel their arsenal. Nephilim Grove is a testament to that as it is a bold, atmospheric, heavy, emotional, and diverse journey. I honestly couldn't highly recommend this album enough, it was in my top 5 favorite albums of last year. If you are into dark, emotional, heavy, and atmospheric music... BUY THIS! You will not regret it.
Novembers Doom - Nephilim Grove was released Nov. 1st from Prophecy Productions
Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.