Posted by Nick Skog on Saturday, October 17, 2015 Under: English
Published: March 29, 2015
*Early review before HDR/SP signing and physical release
I've been wondering how a full album by this Greek band would sound since picking up their impressive demo release 'The Lonely Aquarelle' back in 2012. And, to cut straight to the chase, it sounds absolutely as gorgeous as the demo promised it would. Including both tracks from that, as remastered bonuses, the CD album runs to nearly 70 minutes of melodic Gothic-Death/Doom as lush, polished and dripping with atmosphere as every release in that vein should be.
The very first thing you will notice about the album is that - inevitably, perhaps, as a result of that - it sounds almost instantly familiar: channelling the original spirit of Peaceville so hard, I was half-expecting to find my calendar flipped back to 1995. Much as with the demo, reviewed by my colleague Laurent, as the opening bars unfold, you could be forgiven for thinking a My Dying Bride album had found its way into the CD case. That style of lilting yet mournful interplay between guitar and synth harks all the way back to 'Angel And The Dark River' territory, leaving no doubt as to where 'The Isolation Splendour' starts drawing core inspiration.
Don't get the wrong idea, though: this is no clone, however much vocalist Leonidas' clean voice can sound uncannily like Aaron Stainthorpe at times. He can also, with a range that covers everything from distinctly enunciated growls to soaring epic tones, evoke thoughts of Opeth, Novembers Doom and even While Heaven Wept (the latter, in fact, appearing on his CV). It's more that this album occupies similar space as those mid-'90s classics: the Gothic influences present as moments of emotive melancholia and narratives of poetic tragedy, weaving around a solid heart of gruffly muscular Death/Doom. Melodic, accessible, sweeping and grandiose, but without a trace of saccharine sweetness: this is a record whose essential quality is to absorb the listener completely in its ever-changing tapestry of moods.
To that end, and comprising six members, with varying degrees of previous experience, the band makes good use of the versatility available to them. The vocals are a notable example, but not the only one, with a full-time guitarist and keyboard player, and founder member Andreas combining both instruments, they have scope to cover the full gamut from gently atmospheric interludes to fast and heavy guitar-led riffing. Backed by a percussion section which both perfectly underpins the rhythms and adds plenty of ornamentional enhancement to proceedings, there's plenty of depth to go with the breadth of music on offer. I would single out the drumming as being worthy of particular praise, even amongst such a wide display of musical talent: frankly, all rock/metal bands should aspire to have an engine-room that proficient behind them.
Compositionally, Immensity work to those strengths: most tracks coming in at around the 10-minute mark, each one winding through multiple transitions along the way. In that sense, it has quite a Progressive Metal feel: changes of speed and style are worked in with a flowing continuity (again, Opeth spring to mind), so that the listener remains grounded within the evolving piece. This feel for songwriting is perhaps the greatest strength of the band, defining them more clearly than even the exemplary musicianship. Yes, it's certainly founded on the bedrock of early Peaceville, but there are plenty of moments within that tip a nod towards more modern ventures along the same lines, such as Swallow The Sun. It would be pointless, though, to list each snatch of recognisability - the net effect is simply that it manages the neat trick of simultaneously presenting familiar components, yet creating a distinct overall identity of its own.
Wrapped in a clear production that lets the whole array of instruments find their voice, it should only take the multipart lamentation of opening track 'Heartfelt Like Dying' to realise how well this has been put together, in all senses. The rest of the album largely lives up to that, cascading through its different emotions with a majestic, triumphant ease that, above all, makes listening to 'The Isolation Splendour' a surprisingly uplifting experience. If there is a criticism to be made, it would be that the length could have been kept on the more easily-digestible side of an hour - I am pleased to have the bonus remasters included, but could probably have lived with the lengthy and less-captivating 'The Sullen' being dropped to make room for them. Nevertheless, it's hardly an atypical runtime for a Doom release, and by the time the soaring finale of 'Adornment' dies away, it has done a sterling job overall in exploring the beauty that can be found in familiar and yet welcome sorrow. Great work, especially for a debut, and I sincerely hope to see it soon find a well-deserved home on a full label release.
Reviewed by: Mike Liassides
In : English
Tags: immensity the isolation splendour doom metal death-doom metal gothic doom metal greek doom metal underground metal paradise lost early anathema my dying bride