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Canaan : Il Giorno Dei Campanelli

One of Canaan's finer and most distinctive releases, though as elusive at being labelled as ever.

I have no idea who might have coined the term 'Doomwave', but if I find out, I'd like to thank them for something that does actually have some descriptive value, at least when it comes to Canaan. They were one of those chance discoveries at the end of the '90s, when a random purchase first led me to encounter their distinctive mix of Ambient, Darkwave and Doom. I hadn't even twigged their connection to cult Funeral Doom legends Ras Algethi back then, just took it at face value that, in that particularly Italian way, they'd found their own unique way to explore the aspects of human misery. Over the years and the line-up changes, the format of alternating Atmospheric/Gothic Doom tracks with Dark Ambient/Experimental ones remained fairly constant, though the degree of harshness and mix of instruments varied, until that peaked with the preceding 'Of Prisoners...', separating the two styles into their own album within the double-disc package.

And now, closing that particular circle, 2016's 'Il Giorno Dei Campanelli' ('the day of the bells') takes the exact opposite stance and mixes all of those elements into every track. Of course, being Canaan, it isn't quite that simple: sole remaining founder Mauro Berchi described it to me as "nothing to do with metal, but it's a VERY heavy and "doomy" record nevertheless". With the latest line-up changes leaving them a stripped-down trio - retaining the guitar-bass-keyboard-samples skills from recent albums, but losing their drummer and female vocalist - the musical thrust eschews any recognisable use of Rock or Metal instrumentation. On very careful listening, there's what may be a distant bassline in places but, aside from that, the compositions are - or sound - entirely synthesised. The spikes and troughs are jagged and metallic, dehumanised Industrial rhythms over a miasmic swell of Noise/Drone textures and less-recognisable samples. Layers of keyboards weave a certain musicality through that cold soundscape, often drawing an unsettling contrast, occasionally reaching out with an incongruously upbeat-sounding melody, while Mauro's primarily clean vocals sit, weary and melancholic, high and clear above that soundscape.

Entirely in Italian this time, the lyrics are in many ways the focal point of the album, their dark and gloomy introspection painting pictures of regret, loss, failure and inhumanity. For those who don't especially care for words, or don't speak Italian, it's still possible to appreciate the album taking voice as another instrument - there's enough emotion projected into the delivery to grasp the mood, if not the detail. However, it is an experience considerably enhanced by understanding the motif behind each piece (even if, as for myself, it requires the rather crude assistance of Google Translate).

The album itself opens with 'Canzone Per Il Nemico' ('song for the enemy'), which is perhaps the closest thing to pure Gothic/Darkwave on the album, and initially reminiscent of the band's turn-of-the-millennium works, minus guitar. But from there on in, things steadily become more claustrophic, darker and crueler: and by the time the vicious, distorted whispers and crackles of 'Libero?' ('free?') stab into your thoughts, the atmosphere is steadily plunging towards some impressively stifling and oppressive depths. The pace seldom rises above a deliberate one, often dropping to funereal slowness, and - despite the false hope of some lighter moments along the way - the album continues its relentless descent into grim bleakness, until the cold retrospectives of the closing 'La Lunga Strada' and ' Due Specchi' ('the long road' and 'two mirrors') deliver their discordancy and final fade to oblivion.

And, at the end, I find myself very much in agreement with Mauro. There's nothing here you could call Metal...and, yet...it does have a profound underlying heaviness and an absolutely misanthropically bitter, comfortless misery. I struggle to think of anything really comparable, to be honest: the distinct song structures and abstract instrumentation, further confounded by the clean vocals, defy or disqualify most labels. Perhaps closest would be some of Thergothon founder Niko Skorpio's later works, or sections of Akira Yamaoka's horror soundtracks, which similarly blur the Industrial/Drone/Noise/Ambient boundaries with nods toward a Gothic aesthetic and atmosphere. Whatever you wish to call it, though 2010's 'Contro.Luce' hinted at something of a similar approach, it's essentially Canaan putting another unexpectedly different (and, this time, even darker and doomier) twist into their already-inventive evolution. Myself, I'd add 'Il Giorno Dei Campanelli' to the list of their very best releases, without hesitation, and be prepared to recommend it to anyone looking for their own personal 'heart of darkness' - or to surf the Doomwave.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Canzone Per Il Nemico
2. Se Un Giorno
3. Libero?
4. Dimmi
5. Un Mosaico In Bianco E Nero
6. Il Sogno Di Un'Anima
7. Esistere
8. Resa Senza Condizioni
9. L'Assenza Di Pace
10. Soltanto Paura
11. Dentro La Scatola
12. Scegliendo Il Solco Sbagliato
13. La Lunga Strada
14. Due Specchi

Duration : Approx. 57 minutes

Visit the Canaan bandpage.

Reviewed on 2017-01-18 by Mike Liassides
A Dream Of Poe - The Wraith Uncrowned
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