Monday, July 25, 2011

The Howling Void - Shadows Over The Cosmos (2010)


Hailing from San Antonio, Texas, The Howling Void is more than just another funeral doom band. Having been (self) described as a "glacial, wandering meditations on Chaos, Time, and Light," you are surely not in for a metalcore scream fest. This is truly doom at it's core; low, slow, and depressive. Throw in a healthy dose of symphonics, and you have "Shadows Over The Cosmos."

Those stunning symphonic elements are on display in the opening to "The Primordial Gloom." Keyboards are a featured instrument, playing a soft melody over the reverb of guitar and the slow crashing of drums and cymbals. Unearthly growls overflow the low end of the spectrum, a staple of traditional doom. The atmospheric syntesizers contribute to the ever darkening mood. While the track remains heavy, it somehow seems delicate. After the repeated bangs of drums, things fade away, leaving only keyboards and running water.

The albums title track is similar in scope, relying on the predictable, albeit powerful, percussion to keep your head moving. The ringing distortion of guitars comes and goes, each strum bringing it back. There are few words to describe the tempo at which the song flows, leaving only "creeping." The piano keys are well used, providing a melody for an otherwise somber affair. The deathly roars will leave you questioning whether you are, in fact, still among the living. Clocking in at nearly 15 minutes, there is little variation, leaving things feeling stale by the halfway mark. While the length may be a typical trait of the genre, it is unwarranted in this case.

The formula remains the same throughout the second half of the album. "Wanderer Of The Wastes" sees a short burst of aggressive from the drums, before falling back into the aforementioned sludge. The use of orchestrated synths leaves an ethereal mark on "The Hidden Sun," a welcomed interlude. The delicate tingle of piano, coated by organs and the sounds of nature is soothing, findng beauty in the wasteland. However, the beauty is immediately burned to ash by "Lord Of The Black Gulf." While it remains formulaic, the guitar does see a brief change in direction, delivering some clean, single notes as opposed to the chugging norm. The rain enters, and the keys take you home, through the dark and desolation, into the light.

This album falls into a category that is hard to get out of. It contains so many things to celebrate, but the quantities are simply off. This is funeral doom, through and through, but it would be just as effective if the tracks were a mere six to eight minutes long. The repitition becomes hard to swallow, leaving the symphonic work to rescue each song. And while they are beautiful, sullen, and eerie all at once, that is a tall order.


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