Irish doombringers Dread Sovereign feature the immortal Alan Averill aka A. A. Nemtheanga (Primordial) on bass and vocals along with Johnny King aka “Dubh Sol” (Malthusian) on drums and “Bones” (ex-De Novissimis) on Guitar. That’s quite a lineup. But, for all their credentials and figurative presumed success, Dread Sovereign simply falls short of the lofty aspirations and expectations. For Doom the Bell Tolls (awesome title alert!) features five original tracks, one of which is an intro, and closes out with a Venom cover (“Live Like An Angel, Die Like A Devil”).
Once again featuring the artwork of Costin Chioreanu, Dread Sovereign certainly knows how to make an impression. The artwork and album are simply beautiful to look at. Building on the theme from 2014’s All Hell’s Martyrs, the cover reveals a man being led to his execution, this time by hanging rather than flaying. And to an extent, that tracks, at least in title, support that notion. “Twelve Bells Toll in Salem” (fact: in Salem witches were usually hanged and not burned), “The World is Doomed” (no shit, Sherlock) and, I can’t even type this, “Draped in a Sepulchral Fog” (which is really just an interlude track).
What’s so frustrating about this LP is that when it’s good it’s really, really good. “Twelve Bells Toll in Salem” is a really, really good track. Spanning 13 minutes, it stumbles along with guitar solos, inventively slow drumming and the soaring, instantly recognizable vocals of Nemtheanga. If this LP were merely the first three tracks and a cover, it would receive largely positive reviews. But it’s not. Instead, tracks like “The World is Doomed” weigh heavy like an anchor attached to a doomed man’s leg.
Effecting a rock-like rhythm and flow, “The World is Doomed” feels completely out of place on this album; like a Primordial song that has no home and was crammed onto this EP for lack of a safer place to lay its head. Actually, it might be a fine track as the foundation for a different band. Perhaps a more rock-inspired project, drawing on the lush history of Irish pub-rock, could make for a spirited project. But, sitting pretty on For Doom the Bell Tolls it’s simply out of place, hanging there like an untreated skin tag.
“The Spines of Saturn” makes a whole-hearted effort at rehabilitating the LP, but it simply doesn’t do enough. With garbled vocals, filtered through a vase full of aspiring-laced water, and moderate pacing, it’s another track that I simply want to do more: To push the boundaries a bit more; To allow Nemtheanga to tell his fantastical, and largely fictional, stories using his naturally acquired pipes. His talent feels somewhat suffocated by the LP as a whole. And, yes, it’s not supposed to be Primordial, and perhaps there is a bit more of a pub-band feel. But it’s simply not enough.
Finally, we have to briefly deal with the Venom cover. Adding an entire minute to the track, I guess in an effort to “doom” it out, Dread Sovereign take what is an rousing and rebellious Venom track and simply make it about as cumbersome and difficult as any cover could be. Where Cronos shows an ease and naturalness to his vocal pacing, Nemtheanga shows difficulty merely expressing the lyrics at such a pace. Honestly, it’s an odd choice. Nemtheanga is a tremendous vocalist. Hell, he’s a tremendous frontman. But his skills don’t lie in the speed-paced Venom stylings of old. He’s not the singer that should be screaming “Fuck Yeah!” Rather, he excels in moody, epic and extreme takes on black metal like Primordial.
A final note, since Primordial began as a cover band of Venom and others (Bathory being one) “Live Like An Angel, Die Like A Devil” might be a look into Primordial’s beginnings. And, if it is, all we can say is thank Lucifer they chose to do something different and unique.
The problem lies in length (a sentence likely never ‘fore uttered). The Venom cover being superfluous, this album would simply work better as an EP. “The World is Doomed” should absolutely be cut. Perhaps along with the interlude track that does almost nothing to enhance the album itself. It’s superfluous. And while I appreciate that the members are all trying to do something that might be outside their comfort zone, it’s likely that a blend of their actual comfort zones would have been a more successful venture.