Isole – Forevermore Review

Originally written by Nin Chan

Here’s more quality doom from Herr Ola Blomkvist and I Hate Records, a label that is quickly solidifying its position as one of the most exciting young labels on European shores. Having unleashed a litany of vastly different, yet consistently excellent releases over its relatively embryonic career, including recordings from Swede Sunlight-worshipping horde Sargatanas Reign, NWoBHM LEGENDS Pagan Altar, an impossibly obscure discography from ‘80s thrash outfit Protector, and a reissue of Brazilian black metal legends Vulcano’s second record, it is clear that the label is fiercely intent on proliferating true metal in all shapes and forms. The label’s latest endeavor is oriented primarily around epic-styled Euro doom metal as advocated by the likes of Candlemass (perhaps THE most pronounced guiding influence here), Solstice and earlier Solitude Aeternus, marking a distinct deviation from the more upbeat stylings of much I Hate material so far.

Effectively, this isn’t a true debut, considering Isole has existed in its previous incarnation, (the sublime) Forlorn since the 1990s. As such, there is a real sensitivity for warmth, songcraft and texture displayed throughout the record. The entire record drips with somber melancholia and anguished reflection, but at the same time it is supremely welcoming and accessible, radiating an acutely intimate personality that only the best trad doom can articulate. The record largely dwells on a mournfully slothful speed, though several mid-paced sections and very sporadic bursts of double bass are sparingly inserted to add dynamic emphasis to the structures. Candlemass is most certainly the most prominent influence throughout – the emphasis on despondent atmosphere draws most favorable comparisons to Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, though the occasional insertion of driving, coherent, bombastic and RIFF-oriented sections (05:40 will make you crap your pants!) is more closely akin to Ancient Dreams and Tales Of Creation. Otherwise, the record is rather uniform in sound – layered, overdriven twin leads, plodding beats, distant/echo-soaked and impassioned vocals, all grafted upon a spacious, enveloping production that is simultaneously sparse and involving.

Of course, the traditionalism of the record does, for the most part, hinder the crossover appeal of the record – if you weren’t a fan of European trad doom to begin with, it is rather unlikely that Forevermore, despite its significant emotional depth and thoroughly evocative atmospherics, will make a believer out of you. There are no quirks or idiosyncratic features of Isole’s music that truly separate them from the scores of mavens who have worshipped at the altar of Leif Edling, but the conviction and consummate professionalism that bleeds all over this release distinguishes them from the vast majority of trad-clones currently saturating the doom market and SURELY places them on a higher pedestal than the My Dying Bride/Paradise Lost/Katatonia pseudo-goth mimicry that is being passed off as “doom” on European shores. How well you receive this album will therefore exclusively hinge on your existing affinity for slow and intimately introspective traditional doom, as well as majestic, drawn-out songs that focus on the premise of establishing atmosphere instead of dynamism.

This, of course, isn’t at all to suggest that Forevermore is by any means a dull listen to the active listener – the title track is really quite stunning to behold, building from layered chamber vocals and weeping leads into a cathartic whirlwind of double bass and pummeling riffing, elegantly juxtaposed against spectral, gently-plucked, echoing guitar notes. The ominous double bass work and darkly melodic, highly literate twin guitar work 3:30 into “Premonitions” and the post-Tales Of Creation sounding power metal, quasi-Maiden dancing leads of “Moonstone” are very cool, too. What this immersive album absolutely requires (like all traditionally-leaning doom records) however, is PATIENCE and ACTIVE listening – put this on as background music and you will quickly realize that a passive listening yields nothing but monotony. This is music that demands an attention span, so as to unravel the ornate subtleties and emotive capacity of Isole.

Production here is pretty flawless – the bass is loud in the mix, the drums have a very sullen, deliberate and HEAVY feel while sounding organic and full. The guitar tone is warm and perfectly elucidates the depressive topics presented, and I LOVE the sound of the bass, which sounds clean and rich. The passages where the bass takes over are very noteworthy – ie the opening passage of “Beyond The Black”, where the bass assumes the lead melody while supple waves of guitar wash over the rest of the mix. I wish the bass was as varied and musical throughout the record – often the bass playing is rather orthodox instead of infusing a more distinct textural dimension, but the sound is IMMACULATE and the instances where it DOES take over are really quite stunning.

I am a bit bummed about the vocals at times, because while competent, drummer/vocalist (how on earth does this dude pull this off live I wonder?) Bryntse lacks the expressive range of a Messiah Marcolin, a Robert Lowe or even a Tomas Vikström. I could have done with more dynamic vocals (though death metal vocals do surface in very sporadic fashion here), though otherwise the vocal tone is fantastic, with just the right amount of echo applied to convey a vast, mournful feel without overriding the soulful organic feel of the record.

While this record is truly unlike anything that has bore the I Hate insignia to date, it is very firmly entrenched in the label’s guiding philosophy – it is fiercely reverent and referential of metal’s forefathers, preserving a neglected legacy and carrying into a new epoch. It could have benefited from a touch more variety in the vocals and bass work, but otherwise absolutely everything on this record is immaculately studied and executed. While one may suggest that ANOTHER trad-doom offering sounds like a redundant proposition, I assure you that if you have an interest in the genre, Isole have much to offer.

Posted by Old Guard

The retired elite of LastRites/MetalReview.

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