With an impressive catalogue of releases already tendered, and an ever-growing pile of exceptional bands constantly being added to their roster, Sweden’s I HATE Records has earned themselves a stately position amongst few others as True Champions of doom. In fact, they’ve been damn near faultless in their release decisions as of late. Needless to say, it wasn’t much of a surprise to discover they’d jumped on the opportunity to release the third record from Pennsylvania’s own kings of doom, Pale Divine. What is a little surprising: just how unbelievably fantastic this record turned out to be.
For those not familiar with the band, Pale Divine’s brand of classic doom is cut from a similar cloth as Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, Trouble, and endless others. The band’s two previous full lengths — Thunder Perfect Mind and Eternity Revealed — both leaned harder on the 70s rock elements of proto-doom classics, giving the riffs and soloing an ample dusting of psychedelia and a fair bit of boogie in the woogie. However, a new label and yet another change in the bass camp has found the band strolling down a much heavier path.
The fuzziness that blanketed Thunder Perfect Mind and Eternity Revealed has been blown away in favor of a much more vibrant, robust mix that not only adds serious dimension to the bass and guitar riffs, but also makes it that much easier to pick out what each player is doing at any given time. Darin McCloskey’s deceptively incomplex drumming can be heard fluttering about just as clearly as newcomer John Gaffney’s rumbling bass lines, and guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener’s copious solos are absolutely luminous.
The band’s overall sound has a lot more traditional heavy metal fastened to the crux now, and it serves them well. Right from the gate, “The Eyes of Destiny,” “Fire and Ice,” and “Broken Wings” all demonstrate the kind of driving force employed from classic thunderers such as Manowar, Cirith Ungol and Manilla Road, but they’re augmented through a strong emphasis on pure, classic doom.
The band hasn’t abandoned the 70s rock elements completely, however, as there’s still plenty of it evidenced in Diener’s guitar-work, especially towards the latter part of the record. The ballsy, repentant “The Seventh Circle,” and the bluesy strut of “Soul Searching,” for example.
“(I Alone) the Traveler” is the crowned jewel of this work, though, and it hits like a megaton bomb when paired with the 11-minute follow-up, “Cemetery Earth.” The two deliver an intense level of emotion that’s equal parts anguish and contrition, and the 20-minutes they represent is worth the price of admission for any fan of classic doom. Both songs also do a beautiful job of showcasing Greg Diener’s stunning ability to balance soulful singing with leads that absolutely slay with sentiment.
Reviewers are sometimes faced with the surprisingly difficult task of writing about an album that truly moves them without coming across like an ass-kissing douche. I have simply resigned myself to wear the jeweled crown of The Lord Of All Ass-Kissers with regard to Cemetery Earth, because I have yet to find a true flaw after spending the better part of the last two months with it. This is a true classic of doom, and any fan of the genre would be a fool to pass it up.