Question of Madness is the brainchild of former The Chasm bassist Alfonso Polo. The band’s ties to The Chasm run deep: Question of Madness’s debut The Dark Corners of the Mind was released on Chasm mainman Daniel Corchado’s Lux Inframundis Productions, and the album features performances from Chasm members Antonio Leon (drums) and Julio Viterbo (lead guitar). Despite the numerous connections to the masters of “iron willed death metal”, Question of Madness’s music bears little resemblance to that of The Chasm save a similarly epic scope and a high level of quality. In fact, Question of Madness plays traditional doom, very much in the vein of Solitude Aeturnus and Candlemass.
No matter how good the music may be, the vocal performance usually makes or breaks a traditional doom album for me. I think just as it is with Halford and Dickinson in traditional metal, Robert Lowe and Messiah Marcolin (and to some extent Johan Langqvist) have set the doom vocal bar so high that all those who follow are doomed (pun intended) to sound inferior. So, when listening to a new traditional doom band, I always get a great sense of both anticipation and trepidation before the vocals enter. Question of Madness builds that anticipation to maddening (pun intended) levels, as vocalist Albert Rybka does not open his mouth until a full five minutes into the record. I am pleased to report, though, that Rybka receives a passing grade. Rybka rivals neither Marcolin for bombast nor Lowe for emotional depth, but he possesses a great range, a reasonably pleasant tone and more than enough power to get the songs where they need to go. The vocal parts on The Dark Corners of the Mind are demanding and Rybka shoulders the load manfully.
Anyone who has heard The Chasm knows that Leon and Viterbo are more than competent death metal musicians, but on The Dark Corners of the Mind they take to doom metal like they were born to it. Leon proves perfectly adept at handling Question of Madness’ slower grooves with stripped-down, but nuanced, playing, and his death metal chops come in handy when the band picks up the pace. Viterbo, for his part, positively shines on this record. Freed from the The Chasm’s dense, highly orchestrated arrangements, Julio is able to stretch out with some lengthy, free-flowing and wildly expressive solos.
With a solid supporting cast in place the only possible hurdle remaining between Question of Madness and success is Alfonso Polo’s ability to deliver a decent batch of songs. As it turns out, that is no hurdle at all. In listening to The Dark Corners of the Mind one is overwhelmed with the impression that Polo knows what he is doing. Every song on the album moves with the stately majesty of the most regal monarch and strikes with the force of the most merciless tyrant. The tracks are rich with melodies, both vocal and instrumental, well balanced between light and shade, and full of riffs, riffs, riffs. Polo subscribes to the philosophy that doom does not have to be slow. Though The Dark Corners of the Mind does not lack for ominous lumbering doom, Polo frequently spurs the songs to a spirited gallop, bridging the gap between traditional metal and traditional doom. So whether you prefer to doom dance or bang your head, The Dark Corners of the Mind has you covered.
Aside from a lengthy and unnecessary (but not unpleasant) intro, The Dark Corners of the Mind is short on weak spots. Rybka can get a little shrill at the top of his range, and “Hollow Caves” might not need to be eight minutes long, but aside from that, there is precious little to complain about. Even a track such as “The Uninvited”, which features some crooning by Rybka that initially struck me as a little fruity, won me over in the end with a neck-snapping riff in its second half.
With The Dark Corners of the Mind, Question of Madness has given birth to a fully formed doom metal juggernaut. The band may not yet be a top-tier doom act, but it is a lot further up the mountain with its debut than most bands ever get. If bands like Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus, Forsaken and Solstice get your blood flowing, you probably need to hear this.