2014’s All Hell’s Martyrs was an absolute stormer of an album, and definitely one of my favourites from the doom metal genre. After catching them live at last year’s Damnation Festival, I was very excited to eventually hear some new material from the band. Finally, the wait is over.
The first thing that strikes me is the length – at a mere 37 minutes this is significantly shorter than the band’s debut album. Add to that the fact that the last track is a five minute Venom cover, and we actually only get a little over half an hour of new material here, and some of this is intro/interlude tracks. As such, the release feels more like an EP than a full album. Ultimately this doesn’t matter too much, as the music is still so damn good I can’t really complain, even if the Dread Sovereign of 2017 is a little bit of a different beast to that of their debut album.
This difference soon becomes apparent as a slight change of direction. Although there were some psychedelic elements on All Hell’s Martyrs, in the main it was traditional doom metal through and through. On For Doom the Bell Tolls the psychedelic aspects of the band’s sound play a much larger part in Dread Sovereign’s delivery.
There’s still plenty of doom metal here, of course, for fans of the style to get their teeth into. The band simply use this as a starting point and build on it to explore other waters that are just as murky as those they began in.
In some ways you can think of a merging of Saint Vitus and Hawkwind. The final original track – The Spines of Saturn – is probably the best tripped out example of their new direction, and consequently one of my favourites of the songs here, although they all have their charms in different ways.
The vocals of their inimitable singer, (of Primordial fame), are as impressively performed and as individualistic as ever. Very few singers could pull off this kind of material with as much charisma and character as he does, and his voice is the perfect accompaniment to a band that is increasingly developing its own personality.
With a healthy, warm, gritty production, the songs have the room they need to spread out and come to life. All of the instruments sound very organic and natural, and it’s hard to say whether I prefer the bass sound or that of the drums, equally satisfying are both. Yes, yes; guitars too, but it’s usually harder for a band to get a really tasty sound for their bass and drums than it is for the guitars.
Criminally short in my opinion, but what is here is so very good that it just makes me hungry for more.
Dread Sovereign have returned, bringing with them some new skills and a selection of tracks that makes yours truly very happy indeed.
Make sure you get your hands on this.