|Musical Style: Doom Metal||Produced By: Matt Brand|
|Record Label: Roxx Records||Country Of Origin: Switzerland|
|Year Released: 2013||Artist Website: Pylon|
|Tracks: 9||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 54:46|
Give Pylon its due: The Switzerland based traditional doom metal act might be sticking to a tried and true method, but it also knows not to fix something that isn’t broken. The same applies to The Harrowing Of Hell, the groups Roxx Records fifth full length album from 2013, with its immediately recognizable heavy set riffing, dark and down tuned low-end heaviness and forlorn vocal approach. Yes, all key components to the doom metal genre; hence, the best way to assess THOH would not necessarily be from a stylistic standpoint but rather how it measures up when compared to the recent Pylon back catalog.
The groups aptly entitled 2009 effort Doom (85% Angelic Warlord review) is my favorite. Its main calling card is variety, emphasizing not just doom metal but also aspects of the progressive, Gothic and extreme. A healthy dose of the bands instrumental sound will be encountered as well, with several songs featuring extended fusion and jam based passages and others coming across as shorter, eclectic based instrumentals.
Armoury Of God (80%) from 2011 found Pylon pursuing a heavier direction in backing away from some of the atmospheric elements characteristic to Doom. The upshot, surprisingly, is the more accessible release with songs catchier and taking an added upbeat heading. Either way, maintained throughout is the Pylon penchant for lengthy songwriting and instrumental proclivity.
I rank THOH a slight notch below the two. It comes down to songwriting, which (my opinion only) is good but not on the same level as that of Doom and Armoury Of God. Lacking is the previously outlined distinct personality and/or cohesiveness applicable to Doom and Armoury Of God with the upshot the material here not quite as memorable with repeat listen. A murky element to the THOH production does not help matters.
The area in which THOH shares commonality with Doom and Armoury Of God is the time it takes to digest its material. A measure of patience is required due to the songs here being lengthy and deeply structured (almost technical in form) with melodies on the subtle side of things. As a result, it took several listens for the album to grow on me but sink in it did.
If interested in classic doom metal not unlike Nomad Son, Saint Vitus, Trouble, Count Raven and Candlemass then look no further than non-stop bruisers “The Stream Of Forgetfulness”, “You Have Been Warned”, “Golden Voice” and Sabbath cover “Paranoid”. Sustaining the weighty focus are companion tracks “Psalm 139 A” and “Psalm 139 B”, with the former taking an emotional approach and latter the more spirited heading. A Pylon album would not be complete without a couple of epics, and such is what we have in the eleven minute “Returnal Etern” and nine minute “Lines”.
Quality performance remains a Plyon trademark. It starts with vocalist Matt Brand, who continues to present with his renowned biting and guttural mid-register presence. As reinforced in past reviews, he does not bring the greatest power and range but does not need to in that his disquiet delivery aligns with the musical happenings at hand. Nomad Son front man Nordan Cutajar provides guest lead vocals on three tracks with a style on the more gravelly and rawer side of things, albeit every bit as fitting.
Brand joins with Andy La Morte for the majority of the albums lead guitar work. The two prove in no uncertain terms that Pylon still places priority on its instrumental sound, as “Returnal Etern” and “Lines” (not to mention opening instrumental “Gethsemani”) attest with their lengthy guitar runs in which the two exhibit their choice soloing abilities. Guest lead guitar appearances are made by Ian Arkley (My Silent Wake), Vale Baumgartner and David Vollenweider.
Pylon might not be a Christian band but do include a believing member in Brand, who in the albums liner notes thanks “Jesus Christ, Eternal Light, my friend and savior”. Lyrics best reflect a Christian worldview on “You Have Been Warned” and the two Psalm 139 pieces (also note the use of scripture in the liner notes and use of Biblical imagery throughout).
THOH originally came out in late 2012 as a Limited Edition (300 copies) 7 song EP. Thanks to Roxx Records for re-issuing it on CD with “Golden Voice” and “Lines” as bonus material. The additional tracks help to turn THOH into the more well rounded work that I can see doom connoisseurs and fans of the bands past efforts embracing. My inclination will be towards Doom and Armoury Of God if in need of a fix of Pylon; THOH, regardless, deserves its chance but a certain element of patience is first required in order to full absorb it.
Track By Track
Instrumental opener “Gethsemani” moves its short (2:43) distance to toiling riffs and acidic soloing in establishing a setting on the melancholic side of things. This one is doom in no uncertain terms.
“Psalm 139 A” proves that the Psalms fit perfectly within a doom based framework. Emotional overtones are played up by the song as it trudges its verses, gaining added momentum for a knife-edged chorus in which the poignant leanings are sustained. Impetus slows to a near crawl at the end for a calmer acoustic laced passage. Lyric snippet:
O Lord, you have searched me and you know me
You know when I sit and when I rise;
You perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
You are familiar with all my ways
Before a word is on my tongue
You know it completely, O Lord
You hem me in behind and before;
You have laid your hand on me
It does not get much more powerful than “The Stream Of Forgetfulness”. What we have here is another hulking plodder, bluesy in places (such as the lead guitar during the instrumental opening) but also ponderous (in a generous sort of way) in playing up the Pylon penchant for the laborious. Nice gravelly effect from Cutajar’s lower-register vocal presence.
“Psalm 139 B” takes the more forthright heading in comparison to its similarly entitled counterpart. The song starts to open air guitar before strapping drums take over, hinting of subtle melody in upholding the albums gloomy and stygian milieu. An extended instrumental section is carried by flashy lead guitar and pulsing bass guitar solos. Lyric snippet:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me
Together in my mothers womb
I praise you because
I am fearfully and wonderfully made
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well
My frame was not hidden from you
When I was made in the secret place
When I was woven together
The eleven minute “Returnal Etern” represents the first of the albums two epics. Yes, doom all the way - the song muscles and plods with the best of them - but also upholding some symphonic aspects, as can be found in the keyboards backing the haunting chorus. Verses prove every bit as complementary as a result of their trenchant sensibilities. Instrumental moments run the gamut from quiet guitars mixed with piano to extended shred jam runs.
“You Have Been Warned” proves aptly entitled with its ominous demeanor. The song plays up healthy doses of sledgehammer riffs for the eerily done moments that dominate its length, with impetus picking up for the occasional frenetic moment driven by rapid fire double bass. Final two minutes are instrumental as decisive riff action plays a lead role. Lyric snippet:
Now you’ve died, finished are your days
On this earth, in this life
You passed away, standing here in front
Of the One, you denied
I’ve been there, I saw this empty place
Desolation and pain, cries and suffering
You have heard, when still alive
That there is a God, who loves you
Sabbath cover “Paranoid” is elegantly done in playing up equal doses melody and bone crushing rhythm section. Guitars play every bit the dominant role. Interestingly, flute (at least that is what my ears are hearing) upholds the scintillating instrumental moments here. All in all, a worthwhile take on a doom metal classic.
“Golden Voice” slowly fades in prior to plunging ahead in remorseless fashion. Technical drumming sets the tone here, underpinning a thick foundation of meaty riffs and Cutajar’s wide arrayed but expansive vocal presence. In the end, this one might not be the fanciest or most polished but proves effective all the same. Lyric snippet:
I knelt in silent prayer
Interred in worldly care
And fest lost in the gloom
There heard the voice of doom
I saw you in hell
I saw you in heaven
Rich fragrance filled the airs
Behold: most unawares
Here a proud seraph song
His golden voice thus rang
“Lines”, the albums second lengthy track at nine minutes, sets the caustic tone. What we have here is as scathing a piece as you will find, working in bludgeoning riffs and periodic extreme vocals while maneuvering at a near crawl. Final four minutes are instrumental in playing up an experiments feel (sort of like the Veni Domine track “Tongues”) as crashing guitars and discordant low-end lead the way.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Gethsemani” (2:43), “Psalm 139 A” (4:44), “The Stream Of Forgetfulness” (6:39), “Psalm 139 B” (6:21), “Returnal Etern” (10:51), “You Have Been Warned” (5:44), “Golden Voice” (4:21), “Lines” (9:13)
Matt Brand - Lead Vocals & Guitars
Andy La Morte - Guitars
Jan Thomas - Bass & Keyboards
Andrea J.C. Tinner - Drums
Jordan Cutajar - Lead Vocals
Reno Meier - Guitars
Ian Arkley - Guitars
Vale Baumgartner - Guitars
David Vollenweider – Guitars