|Musical Style: Epic Doom Metal||Produced By: Torbjorn Weinesjo|
|Record Label: MCM Music||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2006||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 51:53|
The best way to describe 23:59, the latest effort from Sweden’s Veni Domine, would be a musical continuation of its excellent 2004 release The Album Of Labour. The album, for example, finds the band distancing itself even further from the progressive metal leanings of its earlier recordings such as Fall Babylon Fall and Material Sanctuary and moving in a direction reflective of a more epic doom-like vibe not unlike that of fellow Swede’s Mirador. A dark and moody atmosphere, at the same time, cannot help but bring to mind a goth influence or even a touch of the blues as well. If I were to invite a comparison, the material on 23:59 is not quite as catchy as that on The Album Of Labour but that does not mean it is any less noteworthy. For example, tracks such as “Valley Of Visions”, “Living Sequence” and “The Frozen” are all well constructed in bringing the same high level of technical expertise found on the bands previous efforts. That being said, Veni Domine does pull some surprises here, the main one being a lack of emphasis on its instrumental sound- which I find to be particularly disappointing. Guitarist Torbjorn Weinesjo, a very fine talent, does not always cut loose like he has in the past and, as a result, many of the albums track lack that “extra something special” that only a well timed instrumental section can provide. Vocalist Fredrik Sjoholm, on the other hand, puts forth type of high quality performance one would expect from him, his vocal delivery now coming across in a lower key that easily complements the darker feel to the music here. The rhythm section of drummer Thomas Weinesjo and bassist Gabriel Ingemarson returns along with keyboardist Mats Librandt.
While production values are crisp and clean in allowing for a crunchy rhythm guitar and a clean mix of lead guitar, a touch of muddiness in the low end prevents the drums from always standing out as they should.
The album opens in very fine fashion to three catchy numbers in “Like I’m Crucified”, “Shine” and “Patience, Receive” that would sound right at home on The Album Of Labour.
After “Like I’m Crucified” slowly proceeds through its verse portions as a brush of keyboards fade in and out of the mix, an edgy rhythm guitar steps forward as it picks up in pace for a good catchy chorus. An eerie instrumental section is carried its extent by a heavy duty bass line that underscores a blend of guitar and keyboards. “Like I’m Crucified” is aptly named:
Pray and receive
The dark will leave
Do you believe?
Like I’m crucified
When you look inside my heart
Forgiving all my stains and pains
Commencing to a heavy duty blend of rhythm guitar and keyboards, “Shine” tapers off upon reaching its first verse as the keyboards drop from the mix. The keyboards return in time, nevertheless, to add just the right amount of touch to an energetic chorus in which Sjoholm cuts loose and displays the full range to his voice. Torbjorn’s blistering guitar solo highlights a nice extensive instrumental section.
A portent atmosphere is created as the sweeping keyboards that introduce “Patience, Receive” slowly carry the song through its first and second verse. Picking up in pace, a metal-edged rhythm guitar takes over and evenly pushes the song to a portentous chorus buttressed by deep sounding vocal harmonies. A bluesy guitar solo interlaced with an acoustic guitar opens an instrumental passage ending to several seconds of fiery riffing. The melody here is huge and helps to place “Patience, Receive” among the albums stronger tracks.
The voice of a preacher at the start of “Electrical Heaven” soon gives way to a commanding riff that drives it ahead hard and heavy. Once the rhythm guitar is superseded by lush mix of keyboards, “Electrical Heaven” moves directly to a chorus that, unfortunately, does not always hold up due to the repetitive way in which it is conveyed. Several seconds of fast paced lead guitar work aligns itself with the songs upbeat aura.
The dark and doomy “Valley Of The Visions” gets underway to a slowly moving blend of crisp rhythm guitar and airy keyboards. After the rhythm guitar drops from the mix as the song reaches its first verse, it soon returns and leads the way to a choir-like chorus giving rise to a nice laid back but sweeping ambience. Torbjorn expertly delivers just under a minute of the albums best fluid lead guitar work. All in all, “Valley Of The Visions’ might not be the albums catchiest number but it proves quite exemplary nonetheless. The lyrics here are quite thought provoking:
The wave of emptiness subsides
Alpha and Omega be my guide
Lead me to the Valley of the visions
Where the silence and the pure will open every door
Lead me to the Valley of the visions
Where the humble are the strong where
All do belong
In the visions
The album continues in its doom-like direction with “Living Sequence”. Eerie sounding keyboards propel the song through its first verse until the pace picks up in haunting fashion to a heavy duty bass line. Subsequent to the rhythm guitar crashing in with just the right amount of edge, “Living Sequence” attains a driving chorus progressing in a manner that borders on the foreboding. Once again, not one of the albums more memorable tracks but the creativity displayed here easily puts it over the top. An instrumental passage would have been nice, though.
“Burdens” slowly and hauntingly advances as a trace of piano creates an atmospheric environment during its first and second verse. Subsequent to the song moving ahead to a few seconds of guitar harmony, a doom-like rhythm guitar steps forward and reinforces a powerfully delivered chorus addressing the issue of anger:
Is this the field of slaughtered souls
Is this where bitterness confesses
I don’t pretend to be the better man
I found the touch that crushes all
The touch of Jesus calms
St Anger to the core
A bone chilling instrumental section driven by ethereal guitar harmony backed by a piano closes out the songs final minute.
After three tracks moving in a slower musical direction, “Die Another Day” proves a refreshing and more up-tempo change of pace. Taking off quickly as keyboards play a prominent but perfectly complementary role, “Die Another Day” picks up in pace as a punchy bass line fortifies its first verse. The song gains further momentum upon transitioning to a catchy chorus carried at a frenetic upbeat tempo. While a terrific song and one of the albums best, it would have stood out even further if backed by a guitar solo.
“Brothers” begins ominously as a prodigious bass line accentuates its first verse in a plodding fashion. Gaining impetus as an edgy rhythm guitar moves to the front of the mix, the song achieves a determined and anthem-like chorus that, with repeated listening, will pull you in and refuse to let go. Once again, this is a very fine number, but a much needed instrumental section ends up missing in action.
“Hyper Sober Nature” proves the albums most blues influenced track. The blues soaked rhythm guitar opening the song carries its first verse as a touch of vocal harmonies adds to the moody atmosphere. Tapering off to a near crawl, “Hyper Sober Nature” makes an even transition to a laid back chorus with a good grit-laden feel. Experimental is the overall feeling I get here, particularly when considering the track is nothing like anything the band has done in the past. Still, a very good number that at only 3:13 is somewhat on the short side.
Keyboards take the progressive influenced “The Frozen” through its first verse in a foreboding manner until it nearly stops dead in its tracks as an acoustic guitar holds sway over the second. After a full mix of rhythm guitar briefly kicks in, the song moves forward at a more upbeat bass guitar driven tempo before returning to an acoustic based direction. A symphonic flavored chorus underlined by atmospheric vocal harmonies ranks among the albums best. While “The Frozen” proves an all around high quality and creative track, I find the lack of an instrumental section to be mystifying. This one easily could have been carried out an additional two or three minutes.
All in all, 23:59 proves a very fine album that took some time in order for it to grow on me. As previously stated, its material might not be quite as catchy as that on The Album Of Labour but that does not mean it is any less notable. If anything, the band still brings the same high level of creativity and technical expertise found on its past efforts. And in the end, that is what really counts- right? That being said, I find the bands decision not to emphasize its instrumental sound to be particularly disappointing; I cannot help but think that several tracks here would have stood out even further if Torbjorn had been allowed to step to the plate with some well time lead guitar work. Still, if you are a fan of Veni Domine or any type of atmospheric doom or goth influenced metal/hard rock then by all means get this.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Like I’m Crucified” (3:49), “Shine” (4:40), “Patience, Receive” (5:48), “Electrical Heaven” (3:41), “Valley Of The Visions” (6:01), “Living Sequence” (4:37), “Burdens” (5:49), “Die Another Day” (4:52), “Brothers” (4:37), “Hyper Sober Nature” (3:13), “The Frozen” (4:41)
Fredrik Sjoholm – Lead Vocals
Torbjorn Weinesjo – Guitars
Gabriel Ingemarson – Bass
Mats Lidbrandt - Keyboards
Thomas Weinesjo – Drums