Wednesday, December 24, 2014

...taking the third oath of Dagon: Bretus - 'The Shadow over Innsmouth'

Perhaps not as moody, trippy, or inclined to phantasmagoria as many of their fellow countrymen, Italy’s Bretus do not fail to deliver a highly enjoyable, albeit relatively straight-forward doom release that is a worthy successor to the band’s stellar debut, 'In Onirica.' With H.P. Lovecraft serving as the band’s inspiration and patron saint of cosmicism and doom this time around, 'The Shadow over Innsmouth' has an overall darker vibe than 'In Onirica' and also reels in some of the hard rock influences that permeated the debut in favor of a gloomier, more traditional approach. The end result may seem deceptively less dynamic, but 'The Shadow over Innsmouth' is an overall more cohesive album from start to finish with enough subtlety to keep the listener coming back for more.

If anything, 'The Shadow over Innsmouth' proves that Bretus have mastered the art of mid-paced doom. A fair share of inspired and inventive riffs, numerous tempo changes, and the vocals of Marko Veraldi (credited as Zagarus) give Bretus a unique edge that helps to separate them from the horde of like-minded acolytes of traditional doom. These elements couldn’t be any clearer than on the completely gratifying track “Captain Obed Marsh.” Bretus are far from being a “retro” band, but the slightly sinister main riff of “Captain Obed Marsh” is a fist-pumping, adrenalized rocker straight from the early days of heavy metal. Pair this with Veraldi’s deep, slightly gritty croon and a perfectly placed wailing lead guitar, and “Captain Obed Marsh” shines as one of the album’s most infectious tunes.

Though Bretus play it a bit straighter than many of their Italian contemporaries, 'The Shadow over Innsmouth' is embellished with brief atmospheric passages and samples that, to a degree, aid in tying the album’s tracks to the literary themes of Lovecraft, particularly to the tales revolving around Innsmouth and Dagon. “Intro” opens the album and establishes an ominous mood with field recordings of falling rain and crashing thunder, as well as the rise and ebb of distorted notes before “The Curse of Innsmouth” roars from the deep. Likewise, crashing waves and distant chants introduce the tale of the ill-fated patriarch of the Marsh family and founder of the Esoteric Order of Dagon in “Captain Obed Marsh.” A somber, extended acoustic passage effectively introduces “The Oath of Dagon”–a tune that heaves and lurches forward under its own weight before almost coming to complete halt that is bathed in feedback and lumbering drums. The track momentarily regains a semblance of life and the all too brief introduction of synthesizer adds an otherworldly dimension during the last remaining moments of the tune.

Really, the only criticism that could be leveled against Bretus’ 'The Shadow over Innsmouth' is that perhaps the music is not quite creepy or surreal enough in comparison to the subject matter. While that was my initial impression, subsequent spins of the album seem to reveal more layers and the atmospheric touches, though sparse, expose a subtle yet threatening atmosphere lurking just beneath surface. I’ve been anticipating this album since the beginning of the year when the band and other devout followers began to circulate the single “The Haunter of the Dark,” which seemed to indicate that a darker path was underway for the band. 'The Shadow over Innsmouth' does indeed pick up where they left off and the result is one fine doom album.

(Originally published at Heathen Harvest Periodical, Edited by Sage Weatherford)