Monday, January 9, 2012

Lethian Dreams – Season Of Raven Words (2012)

It would seem that the French have cornered the market on the new wave of doom metal. Alongside fellow countrymen Grey November, Lethian Dreams are carving out French doom that is as melodic as it is crushing. Among the heavy riffs, there lies a depth of despair, all fronted by Carline Van Roos. On their new album, "Season Of Raven Words," they expand on their original formula, and forge an even more complex sound. When atmospheric music meets heavenly vocals, what is left to want?

Fitting than an album should be with a track titled "Dawn," which in its early moment gives the imagery of a sun rising over the hills. But as the crash of cymbals enters the fold, there forms a bitter haze. The guitars echo for seconds after each chord is struck, allowing for Van Roos to spin her somber tales in a tone that is both angelic and forlorn. By the midway point, you will feel as though the weight of the world has come down squarely on your shoulders, leaving your heart as heavy as each booming kick drum. The tempo, slow and deliberate, may induce a slight swaying in your shoulders, but not of the aggressive variety. The drumming is more explosive on this effort, as is evidence in "Wandering." Each kick and accompanying cymbal and snare punch through your speakers with an emphatic push. Each riff, each strum of a shaking chord fills the air around you, shielding you from any outside interference. But as a platform, it does wonders, as Van Roos cuts deep into you with each melodic vocal passage. The strength and vulnerability that you find here will astonish you.

As a reprieve, you are treated to a minute and a half interlude, titled "See," consisting of nothing but piano keys and Van Roos, a combination that brings chills to your skin. The soft, sullen chords that follow are a perfect go between, leading you gently into the dense guitars and bass of "Raven." The vocals remain the constant, tearing you apart at the seams. The distortion cannot drown out the beauty, instead coming together in a stark contrast of grayish hues. Once again, the drumming shines through, with double kicks and sizzling cymbals filling your ears. There is no dead air, but rather a bounty of doom musicianship on display. Clean guitar tones take the early spotlight on "White Gold," a dramatic change from the previous tracks. But don't get too used to the light on light mix, as an eruption of distortion and battering drums awaits you, coming to and fro, underneath expertly delivered vocals. Not to belabor the point, but Carline Van Roos has a voice that could stop the world from turning. When layered on top of the more aggressive guitar tones that inhabit this piece of the album, the result is simply awe inspiring.

Another interlude, this one titled "Invisible," sees soft whispers over a delicate arrangement of guitars and synths. Nothing more, nothing less. It is a jumping off point for what follows, a track titled "Satyrs" that boasts some interesting drum work in the front end. Off time beats and oddly timed cymbals punctuate the early stages, allowing Van Roos to enter with her verse. There is a dynamic blend of beats and chords to be had here, witheach corresponding earthquake of distortion and low end fury driving you further into your ethereal haze. The latter half of the track is a drum clinic, slamming and swaying you back and forth with blast beats and the rolling thunder of non stop kick drums. The display of musical proficiency would make the most seasoned doom musician envious. Everything comes full circle in "Roads," which borrows from each of the previous seven songs, giving you a fresh reminder of what had you so captivated for the last 40+ minutes. There are no weaknesses, but so many strengths. Van Roos, once again, paints a bleak but somehow hopeful picture with her words, backed by a crushing, harsh melody. The added use of synths creates an even more impressive atmospheric tone, and takes the album to a conclusion that may seem too early.

There has always been a beauty in darkness, and darkness in all that is beautiful. Lethian Dreams manages to bring out both qualities equally, track after track. There aren't many bands who can capture all of the sorrow the world has to offer, and make it seem so much less terrifying. Through every riff, every snare, every kick, "Season Of Raven Words" delivers a subtle sadness. When death comes to take me, I hope that the voice of Carline Van Roos is waiting in the light at the end of the tunnel.


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