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Doomed : Wrath Monolith

Doomed's latest magnum opus is a faultless exemplar of modern Death/Doom.

Being a Doom review site, it'll come as no surprise that we discuss new releases between ourselves: from anticipating them, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, all the way through to passing judgement on the final product, with - usually - even more varying degrees of enthusiasm, and often some agreement to disagree. There wasn't much argument about Doomed, however, with the clear consensus being that the band is absolutely at the top of the contemporary Death/Doom tree, making 'Wrath Monolith' one of 2015's most eagerly-awaited albums. Not much argument after we'd heard it, either, and for much the same reason.

You should be familiar with Pierre Laube's solo project - operating out of Zwickau in the former GDR - by now. With three albums already in the can, each one showing a steady progress in melding the blunt and the bleak with the melodic and the atmospheric, and all now widely available through the mighty Solitude Productions, there's really no excuse for having missed out. And if that's the case, you'll already have an idea what'll be lurking within the trademark green and black cover, gorgeously-illustrated with elaborate handmade paper-cut silhouettes (this time, provided as a fold-out poster, to get the full effect of Pierre and Ina's darkly intricate work).

That idea will probably be correct, to a large extent. Doomed, as a project, has evolved by refining and developing a core sound, rather than by taking any major changes of direction. The familiar elements remain: massive, heavy riffs delivered with that distinctive, loping, off-tempo variability, rumbling bass and often-frantic percussion, Pierre's deep, dark and forceful growls, gentler moments of intricately-textured guitar flirting with dissonance and contrast. Added to those, though, are an increased variety of effects and ornaments - keyboard and synth effects, spoken word sections, clean and choral voices - and a number of guest vocal performances (including repeat guests from the last album and such new luminaries as Johan Ericson of Draconian, Stanislav Govorukha of Suffer Yourself, and the - previously unknown to me, but excellent - shrieks of Anny Bauermeister). Additional guitar is supplied by Pierre's brother Yves, who is also a member of the Doomed live and touring band.

With all of these to hand, it could be possible to over-adorn things, but, in fact, they are used to perfection - full enough to add a real sense of vitality, sparingly enough to avoid losing direction and purpose. And there is a strong, growing sense of purpose in the way Doomed elaborates and focuses its author's anger at human blindness and injustice, conveying it a little more clearly each time. The biggest step up for the preceding 'Our Ruin Silhouettes', for me, was the improved maturity of sound and production: to that, 'Wrath Monolith''s hallmark is the building on maturity of concept and completeness. Nothing sounds out of place, nothing is wasted, and the seemingly endless flow of killer hooks and leads sweeps you inexorably along, breathless between the solemnly eerie intro to 'Paradoxon' and the quiet piano fade-out to the brilliantly venomous male-female vocal duet of 'I'm Climbing'. I'm not going to attempt to namecheck highlight moments: as far as I'm concerned, the album simply doesn't drop away from top-quality at any point.

If you're lucky enough to have one of the 100 limited digipacks, or the ultra-limited 10 boxsets*, the extra two tracks provide a fascinating insight into other possibilities, with 'Stillborn' having something of a paced-up, off-kilter and synth-orchestral Abstract Spirit-esque feel, and 'Echoes Of Her Call' an almost-prog revisiting of 'She's Calling Me' from 2012's 'The Ancient Path'. It's clear why they're not an integral part of this beautifully brutal, utterly genuine, instantly recognisable yet subtly better-than-ever album, though - interesting though they are, they're a diversion from the intensity with which 'Wrath Monolith' unfolds.

Quite simply, this is as good a melodic Death/Doom album as any you'll ever hear, from a band that has carved out its own unique niche in the contemporary scene. There is nothing about it I could fault, from concept to presentation to execution: it is both essential in its own right and quintessentially Doomed in the way it exemplifies everything the project has achieved so far. Perfect. Just buy it.

* Note: Although not a part of the main review, I will mention that these hand-carved and individually-dedicated wooden boxes are an excellent work of art in themselves. I'd expect nothing less, given the attention to quality and detail intrinsic to Doomed, but would also like to commend the personal effort involved in making something like that 'for the fans'...

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Reviewer's rating: 10/10


Tracklist :
1. Paradoxon
2. Our Ruin Silhouettes
3. Euphoria's End
4. The Triumph/Spit
5. Looking Back
6. I'm Climbing
7. Stillborn*
8. Echoes Of Her Call*

* Bonus tracks only available on special editions

Duration : Approx. 51 minutes (standard edition)

Visit the Doomed bandpage.

Reviewed on 2015-06-30 by Mike Liassides
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