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Doom:VS : Aeternum Vale (Reissue)


The first Doom:VS album, now reissued, remains a solid choice for anyone wishing Draconian had been more prolific.



Speaking of Doom re-releases, of which there have been a fair, and steadily increasing number these last few years, the Solitude Productions juggernaut has also been weighing in with a selection of repackaged classics, with Doom:VS, the solo side-project of Draconian's Johan Ericson, amongst them. Though the last release, 2014's 'Earthless', was on the Solitude roster to begin with, the two earlier albums were with the now-defunct Firedoom label. Now, both 'Aeternum Vale' and 'Dead Words Speak' have been unearthed in various CD (and accompanying vinyl) presentations, starting in 2017 with the double LP of 'Aeternum Vale', and continuing through to the end of 2018.

We do have a brief review of the original CD: it was hotly anticipated at the time, coming off the back of Draconian's finest hour. As far as I can tell, the only change here is the six-panel digi cover - everything else in the packaging and sound is identical, and even the additional artwork in the fold-out reuses material from the original - and a lightscribed set of logos on the playing side of the disc itself. Presumably the jewelcase option would be identical bar the lightscribing. Well, why not? If it ain't broke, and all that...

And it certainly wasn't broke, in any way. By 2008, when it first appeared, even the underground scene had access to mature and comprehensive digital technology. Unlike some of the much older material being unearthed and repackaged, there was no real need to struggle along with a rough and ready "recorded in next door's dustbin" type of sound - unless, of course, you wanted to. Doom:VS, clearly, did not want anything to do with that sort of lo-fi aesthetic - 'Aeternum Vale' arrived with all of the polish, clarity and attention to detail that had characterised the lush presentations of Ericson's main band's sweeping Gothic/Doom extravagance. Doom:VS took a rather different musical path, though, straddling the softer and more melodic Funeral/Death/Doom borders in similar fashion to then-labelmates Colosseum and Remembrance, all of whom could be considered fairly exemplary of the so-called 'Firedoom sound'.

Musically, unsurprisingly, there's quite a lot of Draconian showing through the mournful melancholy, though frequently slowed down to a Funeral pace. Slowness aside, its detail and variance leans more toward the melodic Death/Doom side. It's hard to fault Ericson putting his well-established credentials as a composer and arranger, as well as performer, to good use here, nor even that they do end up sounding quite familiar. Lyrically, the bleak defeatist and depressive lyrics are both generic and naive images, quite reminiscent of earlier Katatonia, but their well-delivered harsh - and sometimes clean - delivery compensates for that well enough.

At the time, I thought it was perhaps a little too light and undemanding, and too often a little too close to the parent band - not quite drawing enough distance to sound like a fully-matured separate project. Revisiting it now, I still think that's the case - though, given both follow-ups have steered a similar course, that doesn't appear to be any sort of a band priority or intention. That said, 'Aeternum Vale' nonetheless comes out of this revival with honour intact. It made an impact at the time, sound-wise it's stood up to the passage of years, and it's a valid sort of mezzanine sitting between Draconian and Saturnus, worth visiting for anyone who thinks both bands should have made several more albums. Look over the balcony, and you'll certainly see the wider, more significant floors devoted to both of those bands, but as a place to spend some time, it's pleasant and far from uncomfortable. Of course, with an additional and prolific decade of melodic Funeral/Death/Doom to choose from, Doom:VS faces a harder task in standing out enough to attract legions of new fans. Still, slick, polished, focused and effective as it is, there's no denying it's still an album worthy of including in any comprehensive Doom collection. So, if you don't yet have a copy, this very-slightly-nicer edition will set you back less than tracking down one of the remaining Firedoom originals. Sounds like a bargain...


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Reviewer's rating: 7.5/10

Information

Tracklist :
1. The Light That Would Fade
2. Empire Of The Fallen
3. The Faded Earth
4. Oblivion Upon Us
5. The Crawling Insects
6. Aeternus

Duration : Approx. 50 minutes

Visit the Doom:VS bandpage.

Reviewed on 2019-04-25 by Mike Liassides
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