Tuesday, July 7, 2015

…Doomraiser – ‘Reverse (Passaggio Inverso)’

Over the past decade Italy’s Doomraiser have released nothing but the finest doom metal that the genre has to offer and it seemed as if each successive release was an improvement or refinement of what had come before. Not to discount any of the band’s discography, but 2009’s melancholic masterpiece ‘Erasing the Remembrance’ and 2011’s moodier and mellower follow-up, ‘Mountains of Madness,’ should be considered doom metal classics. Despite Doomraiser’s dubious mantra of “heavy drunken doom” or “slower, harder, drunker” the band has actually been releasing finely crafted and emotionally charged albums with no shortage of heavy riffs complemented with subtle psychedelic atmospherics. With ‘Reverse (Passagio Inverso),’ the band’s fourth full-length, changes behind the scenes and to the band’s lineup have definitely impacted Doomraiser’s overall sound. ‘Reverse (Passaggio Inverso)’ is the first album to be written and recorded with the “Drunken Mark III” lineup and also finds the band straying away from sound engineer Danilo Silvestri, among others, in favor of the services provided by “Engine Ear” Billy Anderson.

Perhaps the most noticeable change to be heard on ‘Reverse (Passagio Inverso)’ is the lack of slow, atmospheric build-ups that would smolder and smoke, eventually erupting with cataclysmic intensity due in no small part to the emotional release of Nicola “Cynar” Rossi’s soaring vocals and tortured vocal melodies. It is no surprise that the “Drunken Mark III” lineup has altered the sound of the band considering that longtime guitarist Drugo and more recent guitar player Willer Donadoni have been replaced by the twin axe attack of Giulio Marini and Marco Montagna. The album is almost completely bereft of the quieter moments that left an indelible impression upon the listener. It is the absence of tracks similar to “Another Black Day Under the Sun” or “Phoenix” that ultimately undermines Doomraiser’s newest effort as the mysticism and appeal found on earlier albums is greatly diminished. The gentle streams of feedback that eventually intensify into distant, siren-like wails accompanied by a slothful bassline during the intro to “Dio Inverso” or the brief, yet mournful violin opening of “Mirror of Pain” are the closest things to the former magic once wielded by Doomraiser.

Production-wise ‘Reverse (Passaggio Inverso)’ is, for what it’s worth, grittier, heavier, and angrier than any other Doomraiser album. Even Rossi’s vocals are often spat forth with an acerbic venom that was only hinted at on earlier releases. The aforementioned “Dio Inverso” may initially recall some of the quiet tension that Doomraiser effectively utilized in the past, but it also tips the scale in the other direction with double-bass drum kicks punctuating the throat-shredding, hellish howls frequently issued forth by Rossi. The album opener, “Addiction,” sets the stage for the rest of the album. Doomraiser, from the outset, burn with a fiery intensity and virtually do not let up until the album’s conclusion. Anderson’s touch has yielded an album that is dense and heavy, but, unfortunately, ignores the emptiness that made previous albums so moving.

Despite the changes, this is still an admirable doom album and it could not be confused as a release from any other band, mostly due to the vocals of “Cynar” Rossi. While there are no tracks that quite attain the emotive, doomed splendor of “Another Black Day Under the Sun” or “Phoenix” the album’s longest track, “Ascension 6 to 7,” stands out as an epic highlight. At nearly twelve minutes in length “Ascension 6 to 7” gives Doomraiser an opportunity to spread their wings and cover a giant swath of stylistic ground. Here, Anderson’ touch serves the band best when they lock into a chugging, staggered groove. The Doomraiser of old rears its head midway through the track as spacey keyboards jump to the fore for one of the most satisfying moments of the album.

I would hesitate to call Doomraiser’s ‘Reverse (Passagio Inverso)’ a disappointment, but I would be lying if I said expectations were not dashed. The loss and subsequent replacement of two guitarists—particularly Drugo’s “slow hand of doom”—have expectedly and understandably altered the band’s sound. Still, ‘Reverse (Passagio Inverso)’ is a strong album that exhibits nary a weak track and only has the strength of its predecessors to blame for any perceived shortcomings.

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



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