It’s not just you who gets spoiled by the riches of the internet in the modern age. Since that very first day he signed up for the OG TheDevil666@aol.com account all those many moons ago, the Old Man Down Below has had a much easier time stoking worldwide evil. He was responsible for the endless parade of 500 Free Hour America Online CD-ROMS that filled every drawer of every office to capacity, and he is equally responsible for tempting you to send that spicy tweet that lands you in hot, hellish water today.
But there was a time when Old Rip was forced to have a much more personal relationship with his sufferers. A time when that old bluesman at the crossroads turned out to be more than just a man. An age when agents were sent to inhabit the brush alongside that quiet, country road. Maybe the Devil looks back on those years with a sense of nostalgia, and sure, sometimes he still gets out to the streets to impart his will in the thorny flesh, but there’s nothin’ like kickin’ back and witnessing havoc running amok while you stream episodes of The Great British Baking Show from the comfort of your fiery throne.
THE DEVIL is what’s wrong with everyone around here, you fool! The Devil and witches and distressed ghosts and hordes of rats and the cursed dead risen again. Doom in the flesh and not chirping at you through laptop speakers inside a bubble tea cafe. These songs are undusted, unsound and unholy, and this is yet another case where the artwork for the record mirrors what you’re about to encounter: unease. The sort of unease one might encounter as they pass a bend that quickly leads into the beginnings of scratchy woods where shadows come to life and force a person’s light, summery mood to turn dark and leery.
If you’re familiar with Faustcoven—particularly via 2012’s wonderfully grim Hellfire And Funeral Bells—you’re familiar with the band’s design: a form of putridity that falls somewhere between the slipshod slow-hacking of Goatlord and a notably Italian style of doom filtered through Mortuary Drape. In The Shadow Of Doom does little to shake those descriptors, but it does find Gunnar Hansen experimenting a bit more both in style and (especially) production. The songs here are a shade more complex compared to works in the past—classic bluesy doom blows through “The Devil’s Share” and the strikingly sassy “As White As She Was Pale” (gasp, a harmonica!), while “Sign of Satanic Victory” and “Lair of Rats” startle with a very palpable sense of energy and vigor that’s lifted further by a second half that’s surprisingly melodic—at least by Faustcoven standards.
Where previous records felt cavernous and distant, In The Shadow Of Doom has a very up-close and “live in the studio” sort of sound that’s clean without stripping away the rawness, and it places more emphasis on ensuring each instrument has ample room in the spotlight. Bass is very noticeable throughout, Hansen’s riffing is often more dissonant, and Johnny Tombthrasher’s drumming finally delivers the heavy, punishing wallop the band’s records have always deserved.
It’s still very “Faustcoven,” though, in case you’re a perennial fan that’s beginning to worry too much about progression. There’s perhaps less in terms of overall bell-knelling and heavy use of film samples, but opener “The Wicked Dead” still pulls some perverse snippets from 1960’s Black Sunday, and Hansen’s voice hasn’t lost an ounce of its rottenness in the six-year gap—he continues to gnarl like a pit fiend belching fire from open to close.
If Faustcoven didn’t really scratch your itch before, they’ll continue to ignore your itch in 2018. But if you like your evil metal slow, analog and stripped of extraneous bells & whistles, Old Scratch will probably put a notch in your favor on his brimstone headboard if you allow In The Shadow Of Doom into your life. Sure, the wheels are a little loose on this medieval carriage, and the seat cushions are a pretty musty, but it’ll get you to that creaky hill-side manor you recently inherited from an estranged great-great-great uncle, just as sure as Hell is hot. Whether or not you wind up happy about the fact that the story ends with you drinking the black blood of bedeviled priests and flogging witches and warlocks with barbed whips until torch-bearing villagers eventually take up arms and burn you at the stake is obviously best left to the individual.