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Thorns of the Carrion : Remembrance In Tragedy (Compilation)

An essential retrospective on the original Gothic Doom band: Thorns Of The Carrion.

Cursed bands aren't rare in the Metal scene. Inevitably, with a name like that, you could be sure that Doom Metal would have its share of them. And when you talk about cursed bands in the field of Doom Metal, there's a good chance that the first name to pop up will be Thorns Of The Carrion.

This US band can claim one glory: being the inventors of the Gothic Doom sub-genre, having used the term on their flyers since 1993. Throughout their career, Thorns Of The Carrion was met with almost total indifference and, like all cult bands, it was well after the death of the band that their name finally began to be talked about all over the underground. Imagine this: they were ignored to the point that almost all of their releases were self-produced, on CD-Rs and cassettes, and with so few copies being released that even today it is exceedingly difficult to get hands on something other than their first album 'The Garden Of Dead Winters'. Originally released on cassette, it was re-released on CD by the famous Californian label Wild Rags, but the 1000 original copies sold so poorly that you could still buy some from the label at the 2013 edition of the Maryland Death Fest! A rather amusing paradox when you see this album being considered today as influential in its own way as was 'Stream From The Heavens' by Thergothon.

It is through the motivation and painstaking work of Russian label Endless Desperation Records that the complete catalog of what the band released outside of 'The Garden Of Dead Winters' is finally available again: an unsuccessful rarity originally intended for 'The Garden Of Dead Winters', the tapes 'The Willow Weeps For Me' and 'In The Darkness Elegy Season', the live album 'At Sudsy Malone's', the studio album 'The Scarlet Tapestry', the EP/CD-R 'Eve Songs', the 7" EP 'The Story Of The Leaves' and demos and pieces of what should have been the band's third album 'The Shadow Mask'... Nearly 4 hours of music complemented with two very thick booklets full of various stories, rare pictures and original flyers. Really a fine piece of work, of which the only complaint one could have about it is the color of the font and the small characters that makes some sentences a bit difficult to read.

But what does the music have in store for the listener? 'The Willow Weeps For Me' and 'In The Darkness Elegy Season' are two tapes that show the transition between the music performed on 'The Garden Of Dead Winters' and the music we'll hear on 'The Scarlet Tapestry'. The basics are kept on the first tape : a slow tempo in the vein of what Thergothon was practising back in those days, with some riffs being reminiscent of Winter, and beautifully written lyrics that were on par with the best of what My Dying Bride was producing. The keyboards add some eeriness and the sub-abyssal growls bring an additional level of morbidity to a music that was far from being the epitome of joy already. However, compared to 'The Garden Of Dead Winters', 'The Willow Weeps For Me' is more melodic. This change becomes more evident on the two musical pieces composing the 'Darkness In The Elegy Season' tape, where the Funeral Doom elements disappear, to transform into a mix between melodic Doom/Death and some arrangements taken from classical music (especially the Baroque and Romantic styles). The music is still quite dark, but the use of classical elements brings some fresh air into the compositions and allows them to better breathe their cold whisper unto the listener. The live tracks are interesting more for the fact that they show that, on a stage, Thorns Of The Carrion was a band not afraid to beat the audience into misery by focusing on their more heavy and morbid side.

If, as its name suggests, 'The Garden Of Dead Winters' could be a musical transcription of what Winter is, then 'The Scarlet Tapestry' would be the musical transcription of Autumn. The band had finally reached the end of its musical transformation, and 'The Scarlet Tapestry' is nothing more than a completely improved and mature 'Darkness In The Elegy Season' (in the same way that the Venus of Milo is a completely improved and mature version of the marble block from which it was sculpted). When listening nowadays, 18 years after its first release, it's hard to believe that this is ONLY a self-production. The sound is crystal, each instrument beautifully highlighted. And then come the songs. More melodic but still slow and full of sadness, full of innovative ideas for the time (harp, flute, again the Romantic and Baroque arrangements), with even more elaborate lyrics than on previous works, 'The Scarlet Tapestry' is nothing but a timeless classic. A piece like 'Tears For The Raven Muse' is the epitome of what Gothic Doom is and should always be, as well as the founding act of the sub-genre. Considering how hard it was to find one of the existing self-released copies back in 1997, it's really a great pleasure to see this forgotten jewel being finally available to a wider audience.

Released as a CD-R limited to 1750 copies (because the band didn't have enough money to do more), 'Eve Songs' follows more or less the same path as 'The Scarlet Tapestry', albeit with an emphasis on melodies and a tempo that starts to speed up a bit. Of course, Thorns Of The Carrion wasn't a stranger to some fast sections in the old songs, but this is the first time that we see the band going fully more up-tempo, going closer to the emerging Gothic Metal style of those days. The year was 1997, and one year later bands like Theatre Of Tragedy, My Dying Bride and Anathema would follow the same path for some time. The songs, though well-crafted, are, however, less interesting than those of 'The Scarlet Tapestry', mostly because of a less clear sound. It's the same for the only song found on the EP 'The Story Of The Leaves', which still remains interesting by showcasing the band trying its way at a more atmospheric style..

Originally scheduled to be released in 2003, 'The Shadow Mask' album never saw the light of day because the band choose to split (on bad terms, if I'm not mistaken) in 2002. A temporary reunion took place, with some new musicians, to try to finish the recording of the album in 2005, but it came to a dead end. The 4 demo tracks found here show a band having gained more in maturity, playing a brand of original atmospheric Doom not unlike what was done by The 3rd And The Mortal on their early releases, with the same level of beauty and tragic fragility. 'Orchids Upon Carrion Fields' and 'Lover's Melancholy' are instant classics that any Doom Metal archeologist will take great joy in, on seeing them being unearthed for his/her listening pleasure.

While being technically nothing more than a compilation of rare artifacts, this box has many merits. The main one being simply shedding some much-needed light on a band that was mostly known only by name to most Doom fans of the current generation. 10 years ago, it wasn't a rare thing to see very hard battles fought on the trading sections of many a forum just for the possibility of finally getting a copy of 'The Scarlet Tapestry'. Of course, with the advent of the internet, many people may have downloaded the whole discography of the band but, as an old collector, I still prefer to have the real thing in my hand (and so should you). Interest in this type of music has fallen as years have gone by, and so, Thorns Of The Carrion was forgotten. Nowadays, apart from Draconian, you'll have trouble finding a band playing this style, with the notable and surprising exception of the Russian-speaking countries where Gothic Doom is still alive and well. So it comes as no surprise to find a Russian label deciding to give the band another chance in the winter sun..

For the rest, it is as simple as this: this 3 CD set is as mandatory to any real Doom Metal fan as the 3 CD collection collecting the whole disEMBOWELMENT discography that Relapse Records released 10 years ago. Get it while you can, you won't regret it.

This review was originally written in French for Spirit of Metal.

Editor's note: The initial pressing of this compilation was an exclusive, limited and hand-mumbered slip-cased digipak only available on pre-order. It was subsequently also released as a limited slip-cased jewel-case version available for general purchase.

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Reviewer's rating: 9.5/10


Tracklist :
Disc 1
1. The Abide Of The Undead Knights
Chapter I: "The Willow Weeps For Me"
2. The Willow Weeps For Me Pt 1
3. The Willow Weeps For Me Pt 2
Chapter II: "Darkness In The Elegy Season"
4. The Darkness In The Elegy Season
5. The Bleeding Throne
6. Tears For The Raven Muse
Chapter III: "Live At Sudsy Malone's"
7. The Willow Weeps For Me Pt 1
8. Naomi's Waters
9. Lover's Melancholy
10. Orchids Upon Carrion Fields

Disc 2

Chapter IV: "The Scarlet Tapestry"
1. Cry The Everstill Dream
2. Tears For The Raven Muse
3. The Tragedy Of Melpomene
4. Bleak Thorn Laurels
5. The Drifting Snow
6. Beautiful Thorns To Caress The Girl
7. By The Brilliance Of Candlelight
8. Memories Forever Unadorned
9. The Ashen Embrace

Disc 2

Chapter V: "Eve Songs"
1. Naomi's Waters
2. Carmilla
3. Song For Lucretia
4. To Covet The Dancing Wind
5. Eve Of The Emerald Sun
Chapter VI: "The Story Of The Leaves"
6. The Story Of The Leaves
Chapter VII "The Shadow Masque Rehearsals"
7. Orchids Upon Carrion Fields
8. Lover's Melancholy
9. Ananias Cross
10. Lycidias

Duration : Approx. 227 minutes

Visit the Thorns of the Carrion bandpage.

Reviewed on 2015-05-02 by Laurent Lignon
Aesthetic Death
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