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Lowen : A Crypt In The Stars

Lowen's debut offers an interesting blend of the progressive, psychedelic, spacious, ethereal, heavy, and just outright weird.

In a style that is known for its simplicity, slowness, and minimalist nature, something that can be crucial when playing Doom Metal is an ability to blend other musical elements into the style. Whether it's unusual vocal styles, varied guitar lines, changes in rhythm, or simply being able to create a unique atmosphere, some of the best bands within the style have been those who weren't afraid of branching out and throwing in some surprises into the mix; be it My Dying Bride's use of violins, Electric Wizard's heavy usage of distortion and psychedelic sounding effects, or Ahab's nautical atmosphere, these little quirks are what made these band stand out in the crowd and inspire newer bands along the way.

Enter Lowen; a three-piece from London who have sneakily unleashed this five-track debut album independently. Tagged on the Internet as Progressive Doom Metal and showcasing magnificent cover art (which happens to remind me a lot of the surrealistic cover art of Cathedral's 'Forest of Equilibrium'), I could tell this album would definitely be something different. The music within is certainly summed up well by the surreal, spacious, and beautifully weird artwork.

The first word that comes to mind when I listen to this album is spacious; the imagery of wars occuring in huge battlefields, but it is no battlefield on this planet. It's an enormous valley in the depths of space, where vicious battles are narrated through aggressive guitar work and a voice that I could only sum up as otherworldly.

The album opens with this voice, and closes with it. A clean, powerful, alto voice sings far in the distance, drenched in reverb, chanting of The Lord of the Ziggurat. Before long, a thick guitar tone, also soaked in fuzz and reverb, cuts the silence, joined with a drum line that sounds as though it is initiating the beginning of a battle. The ensemble explodes into a mix of aggressive guitar and drum work, joined by an ethereal voice and spacious atmosphere. From here, the album works its way into a thick and steady flow that washes over its listener like waves of the ocean.

I find that the most emphasis on these songs is put into the movement of each track. The drums and guitars are always moving at a considerably busy pace. Despite keeping its roots planted in the sluggishness of Doom, the tempo changes quite a bit throughout each song, with the drums almost constantly changing up fills. The riffs have a certain kind of aggression to them, there is a lot of groove and kick that reminds me more of Mastodon's early Sludge material than any typical Doom band. There is this layer of shimmering distortion (which I initially thought was a synth, but turns out to be a guitar effect alone!) that sits on top of the guitars and fully enhances this spacey atmosphere, making it sound all the more dreamlike.

Going back to the vocals, our singer's ethereal alto wails are a big part of what makes the band so dreamlike. Nina Saeidi's voice reminds me a lot of the vocals utilized in 4AD bands from the '80s, namely Dead Can Dance and Cocteau Twins. Her tone very closely matches the astral voices that Lisa Gerrard and Liz Fraser became known for thirty years ago, yet Saeidi has her own twist on the delivery. There is a distinct Middle Eastern vibe in her chants, with some of the lyrics actually being sung in Persian. As Middle Eastern melodies/vocal styles aren't often explored within the realms of Doom, it is a refreshing nuance that adds to the band's uniqueness.

Due to the flowing, continuous nature of the album, it feels less like a collection of five songs, and more like one grand composition. That being said, I feel as if a special mention should be made in particular to the closing track, 'In Perpetual Bloom'. The song begins as a lumbering Stoner/Doom anthem, matched with powerful lyrics So I follow you, my last believer / So I follow you, my remaining worshipper / I will redeem you / I will consume you / You will build me a shrine / The first to meet the divine, before gradually building its way to an explosive climax of blast beats. The soaring tempo dwindles down to a lengthy droning lull, with a layer of ambient effects and Saeidi's haunting chant swirling in the distance.

To sum it up, this is a very interesting album. It's progressive, psychedelic, spacious, ethereal, heavy, and just outright weird, and I really like that. In a time when many bands are trying to create a hazy, dreamy sound in Doom, this album does it in a way that has its own personality. If I could bring it to the simplest of terms, just imagine taking the aggressive riffage and spastic drumming of early-Mastodon, slow it down, and layer it with the ethereal textures and otherworldly vocals of Cocteau Twins. It will please those who enjoy the really fuzzy, psych-drenched style of Doom, as well as those who enjoy more atmospheric variations on the style.

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Reviewer's rating: 8/10


Tracklist :
1. Ashurbanipal's Request
2. Krenko's Command
3. The Fortress Of Blood
4. A Crypt In The Stars
5. Perpetual Bloom

Duration : Approx. 35 minutes

Visit the Lowen bandpage.

Reviewed on 2018-11-06 by Dante DuVall
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