Musically sound, vocally poor
When you think about the doom metal scene, the first band that generally springs to mind is Swedish outfit Candlemass. And the reason for that is the band have been around long enough to have inspired a whole generation of outfits, and have remained the best at producing classic doom metal for the better part of the last 25 years. So whenever a new act emerges onto the densely populated doom metal scene, it’s hard not to compare them to the genuine pioneers of the genre and one of the latest groups hoping to make a name for themselves with their debut effort is Swedish (Uppsala based) outfit Anguish.
Having already released a demo (2010’s limited/cassette only Dawn of Doom) and a split E.P. (2011’s effort alongside Black Oath) to positive press, I had certain expectations of Anguish’s Through the Archdemon’s Head. And having given the album several runs through, I can honestly say that while Anguish aren’t the worst doom metal act ever, their album does fall well short of what I was hoping for.
First and foremost, it must be said that the four piece act (comprising of vocalist/bassist J. Dee, guitarist/bassists David and Christoffer and drummer Rasmus) have modelled their sound on Candlemass in a major way. Sure, there are a few differences here and there, but for the most part, Candlemass is an obvious influence on the band, and therefore the similarities between the two acts on a musical level are hard to deny.
The second thing is that while there’s a connection between Anguish and Candlemass on the musical side of things, the same cannot be said for the vocals. Unlike Candlemass, Anguish has opted for a completely different approach, with J. Dee’s vocals coming across as a mix of Thomas Gabriel Fischer (ex-Apollyon Sun/Celtic Frost/Hellhammer/Triptykon), Cronos (Venom) and Quorthon (Bathgory). While the combination may sound intriguing to some, it has to be said that the actual results couldn’t be further from the truth.
After a solid and rather enjoyable opening instrumental slab of pure crushing doom ((Intro) Through the Archdemon’s Head), Book of Fox picks up where the first track ended, and only shifts in tempo once Dee makes his appearance on the vocal front. Unfortunately, while the band is capable of executing some great ideas on the musical front (even if they’re more or less rehashed Candlemass ideas), Dee’s raspy and sometimes wavering vocal delivery only brings the quality down several notches.
Despite some cool riffing within When the Ancients Dare to Walk, the presence of Dee’s vocals overshadow any of the great work the band deliver on a musical level, while Dawn of Doom doesn’t prove to be much different in terms of quality on the vocal front.
It isn’t until Lair of the Gods and Illusive Damnation that Anguish’s debut effort really starts to provide any real highlights and, even then, it’s only due to a change in tempo (opting for something a little speedier from the standard funeral doom of the other tracks) rather than a genuine change of style or a general lift in overall quality on the vocal delivery from Dee.
Finishing up the album is The Veil (which originally made an appearance on the band’s split E.P. from last year) and the dark and oppressive Morbid Castle, which at near 12 minutes, well and truly overstays its welcome.
If Anguish has proven anything on their debut effort, it’s that they have some great musical ideas, but are letdown with vocals that take away from the music. And that’s a real shame, because if the vocals had been as good as the music, Candlemass may have seriously had some worthy competition on their hands.
(Dark Descent Records)