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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

November's Doom

The Pale Haunt Departure

Review by Mike Korn

November's Doom singer Paul Kuhr disagrees with giving his band the label of "doom metal". While I can see why he feels that way, I must admit that few bands convey a sense of melancholy more than November's Doom. The Chicago based band is hardly what one would call "good time rock and roll". But that doesn't mean that they are not a worthy band. On their new record "The Pale Haunt Departure", they have created something that is both immensely heavy and very poignant and sorrowful at the same time.

The band manages to avoid the quicksand trap that many doom bands fall into...not knowing when to quit. None of the songs here are short, but none of them are those colossal, monolithic ten minute plus monsters that so many doom metal bands favor these days. The songwriting is crisp and focused and the pace of the music not only rises above a snail's pace at times, but it even ventures into the outright aggressive. Contrasting with that are moments of melodic, somber beauty where Kuhr's vocals are more humanising than the barbaric roar he favors at other points. His vocal wizardry is part of what makes "The Pale Haunt Departure" such a mesmerizing listen.

With a superb sound, beautfully artistic packaging, and a boatload of songs heavier than a fleet of dump trucks, November's Doom emerges as one of America's premier bands, whether you consider them "doom" or not.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Pale Haunt Departure
The voices of an eerie choir give way to powerful drumming and then crunching guitar. This track immediately demonstrates the increased aggression of November's Doom. Paul Kuhr's vocals are some of the best guttural growling I have ever heard, comparable to the very early days of Paradise Lost. This is a superb opener.
Swallowed by the Sun
This shows a bit more varied and melodic approach than the first cut, though it is still quite heavy. Here Kuhr uses a variety of vocal techniques, including a spoken baritone, death growling and a sort of haunting clean vocal. The melodic portions of the track include some acoustic guitar and have a very mournful sound to them. The song is steeped in sadness. "Memories are all that you have/And I'm sorry I failed you in life."
Autumn Reflection
The gentle beginning here certainly brings Opeth to mind. Keyboards play more of a role, but the guitars are extremely crushing. Kuhr's vocals are clean through the length of the song, with no growling.This is more of a "gothic" type of cut and is very moody indeed. 
Dark World Burden
This track opens with some subdued bass playing but then cuts in with some relatively fast paced aggressive guitar. Despite the pace of the song, it still has the doomy feeling one would expect. Kuhr's growling vocals return and I am continuously impressed with how articulate they are. This is not noise for noise's sake, but a carefully considered part of the band. The chorus is particularly memorable here and Swedish wunderkind Dan Swano (Edge of Sanity, Bloodbath, Nightingale) contributes a fine guitar solo.
In the Absence of Grace
This is an awesome track, literally exploding from a soft acoustic beginning to a driving, incredibly catchy riff. Really, words can't do justice to how heavy this riff is and in connection with Kuhr's brutal growls, the result is marvelous. Kuhr also demonstates a rasping "sick" vocal that is very effective. A great showcase not only for him but the entire band. "I live with this every day/And the struggle overwhelms me." 
The Dead Leaf Echo
I detect a faint Spanish/flamenco influence in the acoustic guitar that starts this one. Kuhr's baritone "speaking" vocals are featured and do tend to be a little on the overdone side. The lyrics again speak of failure and regret, a theme running throughout the album. This song has a gloomy, oppressive feel to it, transmitted through both heavy and mellow music and is reminiscent of British doomsters My Dying Bride.
Through A Child's Eyes
The more hardcore metal fans might be dismayed with this track, which is mellow and subdued all the way through. However, it fits well in the context of the album and is a haunting lament based around very strong acoustic guitar. Needless to say, Kuhr again shines with his more melodic style. There's also a very tasteful jazz-influenced guitar solo. 
Collapse of the Fallen Throne
This is the most purely doom metal track on the album, based around a very slow, heavy and ponderous riff. It drags on a little too long for my taste, but when I think of doom metal, I think of something like this track. Despite the heaviness, there's also quite a bit of melody and strangely enough, a kind of hopeful feeling amidst the sorrow.
 
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