Friday, May 21, 2010

Novembers Doom - The Knowing

Novembers Doom - The Knowing
2000, Dark Symphonies

This group of musicians has almost always been compared (to their detriment, I believe) to the British triumvirate of doom metal bands: Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, and Anathema; and when so many people in so many different locals, situations, and scenarios latch on to a catch-phrase like this, it tends to become overwhelming - or something that's increasingly difficult to escape. While I know that this band probably does admire the work of those artists from across the Ocean, I am also fairly sure that they would rather just be known for their own abilities and for having their own sound. Who wouldn't want this? In all fairness, I don't see why this album shouldn't achieve that reputation for them, as it is a quantum leap forward in terms of their songwriting and lyrical ability, technical skill, and the effortless establishment of a viable/original musical identity. To tell you the truth, I have never heard much of the British Three in this band - maybe a little My Dying Bride at times, but that's it. What started all of this? Perhaps it was the advertising that their old label Martyr used that quoted Andy from the aformentioned band praising them...I don't know. I don't think it matters.

And so while they are still trapped underneath this stigma (the promo envelope features a quote from a Metal Maniacs review of their material which starts with an admirable example of doublespeak: 'There are many bands similar to Novembers Doom, yet there is no band quite like Chicago natives.' (what?) and which references once again the tired cliche, I am convinced with this monumental (63 minutes long) release that this uniquely talented assemblage of scene stalwarts will move far beyond such stale reminders and asides and build a new category for themselves in the minds of those who give notices of such things. If not, it is the fault of the 'critics', not of the band.

Novembers Doom have expanded their range tremendously with this new music, as if they took a long hard look at their style/sound and all of its idiosyncratic elements and decided to build upon each reserve of originality they possessed. For one thing, their sound has opened up very wide here - no longer, I believe, can they be pigeon-holed into one scene's 'aesthetics' or style, and they draw from a large sampling of influences and/or sources of inspiration to forge a palette that is almost never colored with repetition, from the darker/heavier doom sounds of songs such as 'Shadows of Light' or the crawling 'Last God' (my second favorite song on this album, next to the achingly beautiful 'Aura Blue') to the atonal/minor chord slashings and chaotic instrumentation of 'Harmony Divine', from the classic metal grooves or Sabbathisms of 'In Memories Past', to the piano and clean guitars of 'Silent Tomorrow' and its cousin remix at the close of this disc. For the most part, this is a wide-open, lilting, mourning series of musical passages that flows together in a protracted listening without any real interruptions. In fact I believe this is probably the best way to listen to this album: straight through, from beginning to end, with little in the way of distractions if you can avoid it. After a few such sessions it will become very clear to you just how much of their own passion and personalities this band has put into this album, and its sheer weight of conviction should persuade you of the seriousness of their art.

One of the most remarkable things about these songs is their easy, slow-breathing, relaxed sense of pace and the mastery with which they are built, time and time again, from the ground up: each song, for the most part, starts slowly and then knits itself wearily together, seemingly drawing musical elements out of the air to form the flesh of a moving, living sound organism. The band displays a new confidence of melodicism here, opting for clean guitars and an 'open' acoustic sound when they can use it to add depth, space, and emotion to the proceedings. All of these songs, also, run through a variety of feelings and atmospheres: they seem to ebb and recede, to fold and unfold new vistas to explore, like the movement of waves over a constantly-changing sea surface. It is the 'ease' of this process that convinces me, more than anything else, of the immense amount of work that must have gone into the composition of this material...

So, to sum up, I feel I have to congratulate this band based simply on the courage and creativity they show here...but added to that is my sincere admiration for their talent and their eloquent songwriting ability. If you are in any way a fan of the doom metal genre or an enthusiastic supporter of the more progressive elements of the dark music scene, then you must at least listen to will be impressed...