Saturday, January 4, 2014

…turning shadows to flesh: THE WOUNDED KINGS – ‘Consolamentum’

UK doom sovereigns The Wounded Kings have, over the span of several full-lengths and a split with Cough, crafted and channeled some of the most atmospherically heavy doom of the past decade. Through their dark arts the band has revealed the musical accompaniment for seeking forbidden knowledge, plumbing the dimly lit depths of the unknown, or as a soundtrack for performing necromantic rites. Despite some lineup changes and a subtle shift in sound for their excellent 2011 album ‘In the Chapel of the Black Hand’, Steve Mills and The Wounded Kings have persevered and are about to release their fourth album overall and second featuring Sharie Neyland on vocals, the highly anticipated ‘Consolamentum’.

Essentially picking up where ‘In the Chapel of the Black Hand’ left off, ‘Consolamentum’ continues the band’s explorations of dark occult themes, arcane compositions, and oppressively heavy instrumentation. What ‘Consolamentum’ does best is marry the foreboding atmosphere that oozed and radiated from ‘Embrace of the Narrow House’ and ‘The Shadow over Atlantis’ with the dense, slightly more straight-forward doom of ‘In the Chapel of the Black Hand’. The results are stellar and make for one the band’s richest and most rewarding albums to date.

‘Consolamentum’ continues The Wounded Kings’ effective and tasteful use of organ in their compositions and also includes some fantastic guitar solos, particularly on the tracks “Gnosis” and “The Silence”—an element of the band’s music that was arguably in decline on ‘In the Chapel of the Black Hand’. And while their earliest releases relied heavily on a sinister and hypnotic crawl, ‘Consolamentum’ finds the Kings adding an element of groove to their repertoire. The album’s second track, “Lost Bride”, is under the influence of an immensely heavy jam from start to finish and brings to mind the other UK greats, Serpent Venom.

Two of the shortest tracks, the brief instrumentals “Elige Magistrum” and “Space Conqueror”, contribute to the doomed, otherworldly feeling of ‘Consolamentum’ as a whole while adding additional textures. At only a minute-and-a-half “Elige Magistrum” rocks out with heavy riffs, a flanged drum intro, and blistering solos throughout. Conversely, “Space Conqueror” acts as the album’s “Planet Caravan” with its ominous acoustic guitar, muted drums, and undulating bass tones. The tracks avoid the pitfalls of overstaying their welcome and, like the best atmospheric tunes, they successfully add depth to an already killer album.

No easy feat, but ‘Consolamentum’ easily surpasses the achievement that was ‘In the Chapel of the Black Hand’ and is about as perfect as an album can get. Perhaps not as atmospheric as the band’s first two albums, ‘Consolamentum’ is the perfect blend of old and new. Even Sharie Neyland’s commanding, high priestess-like vocals seem more at home amongst the tracks of ‘Consolamentum’ compared to the band’s previous outing. The Wounded Kings have crafted an amazingly heavy album complete with dark themes, psychedelic nuances, and interesting instrumentation. Sure to be one of 2014’s absolute best…


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