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Akelei : De Zwaarte van het Doorstane

Akelei's emotional Doom sounds fresh and very personal.

This album, I am sure, has been eagerly awaited by anyone familiar with the band’s outstanding Promo ‘08. De Zwaarte van het Doorstane (roughly The weight of what has been weathered out) was preceded by an online-only single release called Dwaaluur which, however, did not become part of the album. It is the band’s first full length release, which is hard to believe when you hear it: everything sounds so incredibly mature that one cannot help assuming a great deal of experience behind it, not to mention talent. Also, the production marks a quantum leap compared to said promo, so that we can finally hear the realisation of the band’s full potential.

Stylistically, one can say that Akelei bring Doom back to its very basics: slow, long compositions soaked with intense emotion. In this sense, this is a very uncompromising album since there are no faster passages at all, and neither are there any of the elements which typically characterise specific sub- genres. What we get is Doom with a very strong emphasis on melody, but which defies any further sub-categorisation beyond that. The fact that you will not find a single instance of aggressive vocal styles does not turn this into a Traditional or Epic Doom release, for instance: the singing style has nothing to do with the Heavy Metal-based vocals most bands from those genres use. Instead, the clear and melodic vocals are of a fragile kind, more along the lines of Jonas Renkse of Katatonia. And neither are we dealing with a watered- down, romantic take on the genre – no, this is as genuinely Doom as can be.

This holds true even though the music cannot be called ‘heavy’ in the traditional sense. Of course, there are powerful distorted guitars and all that, but still it all flows naturally without the slightest aggression. The compositions have quite a laid-back feel to them, which makes the album easy on the ears and fairly accessible without being bland or even superficial at all. Quite the contrary, there is a lot to be discovered, since the arrangements are often fairly complex, including breaks and long instrumental passages which leave room for the atmosphere to unfold. The three guitars Akelei use are thought out so thoroughly that they create an extraordinary emotional depth. Combinations of power chords, melodic lead guitars and additional clean guitar lines are common, as are marvellous harmonic patterns. All notes, drum fills and bass lines are at their places and work beautifully together... not the slightest detail seems to be left to chance. On top of it all, the lyrics are excellent – instead of abstract or apocalyptic themes, they deal with topics of emotional contemplation which are utterly human and which any of us should be able to relate to. However, you will have to understand Dutch in order to appreciate them, since there are no English translations given.

Even though the album is relatively homogeneous in terms of style, all five compositions have an identity of their own. I cannot even pick any of the songs as particularly brilliant, as they are all equally good in their own way. Yet, two tracks deserve special mention: the fairly dynamic instrumental ‘Een Droom in 6/8’ (what a charming title!) and the last song ‘Duett’, whose title is programmatic: embedded in delicate guitar lines, Misha sings a duet with Skumring-vocalist Cecilie Langlie, making for one of the most sublime Doom songs that have been heard in a good while. The clever arrangement of vocal lines is a sheer delight to listen to. Cecilie’s serene voice comes as a welcome new element, perfectly integrated into Akelei’s trademark sound without stealing the show, and her mother tongue Norwegian makes the overall impression even more diverse and interesting and combines surprisingly well with the Dutch vocal lines.

Lastly, the album comes in a high-quality digipack, and the fairly abstract and unconventional artwork emphasises once more that we are dealing with something special here. To cut a long story short, I cannot find a single flaw on this album. This is an outstanding release that no fan of emotional music should miss – most certainly 2010’s album of the year for me, not only in Doom, but generally speaking. And this I call an achievement for such a young band!

PS: you can easily convince yourself of the music’s quality, as all of Akelei’s releases are available as a free download on their bandcamp- site: Click here!

Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. Verlangen [Desire]
2. Meer Dan Je Ziet [More than you See]
3. De Zwaarte [The Weight]
4. Een Droom in 6/8 [A Dream in 6/8]
5. Duett [Duet]

Duration : Approx. 54 minutes

Visit the Akelei bandpage.

Reviewed on 2011-02-03 by Dominik Sonders
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