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Aeonian Sorrow : A Life Without (EP)

Aeonian Sorrow return with this masterful little gem of a Death/Funeral Doom EP.

You may perhaps be more familiar with some of the members of Aeonian Sorrow than the band itself, this EP being only their sophomore release (following 2018 full-length 'Into The Eternity A Moment We Are'), but featuring members of Finnish Death/Doomsters Red Moon Architect and UK's Clouds. The band was founded in 2015 by Greek singer/songwriter/artist Gogo Melone (keyboards/female vocals), who also composes all the music and lyrics, and does all the design and artwork.

I say 'may' above, because The Vinyl Division liked their debut enough to commit it to a smart double-LP package, and at the current time Aeonian Sorrow's Facebook page has the thick end of 14000 followers, both of which are pretty solid achievements in Doom terms, especially for a comparatively young band. Both of which, I would also add, are well- earned, something confirmed by the appearance of 'A Life Without'. Billed as an EP - though with the length and consistency that it could equally have been considered a short album - it's cut from very similar cloth to the debut and presented with similar fantasy-toned nightside vistas; this time as a self-released digipack with foldout insert.

Musically, it's a little difficult to pin down: melodic and atmospheric is the easy part, but it dips in and out of Funeral and Death/Doom pace, and then throws in a number of twists and turns that don't generally fit either. You could perhaps start with the lyrics, and their delivery. Comparatively dense and detailed texts, they project more of a Gothic storytelling imagery than is usual for the genre; new male vocalist Ville Rutanen (Red Moon Architect) brings powerful ultra-harsh growls to his sections, while Gogo's clean contributions are quite atypical, ranging widely from smoky chanteuse to a comparatively deep Grace Slick-style Epic/Rock vibe. Technically, I'm not sure you could even hazard any kind of "beauty and the beast" label to describe that: the voices complement rather than contrast, eschew more or less all of the 'angelic female' cliche, and take pretty much equal weight in carrying the material.

Instrumentally, too, it's densely packed. The drums, handled by Daniel Neagoe (Clouds, and much more) are busy, whether full of energy and flourishes or laying down slow and stately rhythms. Keyboards alternate between sparse and delicately mournful lines and more powerful polyphonic textures, with guitars generally taking melodic precedence for the more uptempo parts. The driving leads, despite the consistent backdrop of melancholy, soar as much as they plummet, giving a tastefully bittersweet feel to proceedings. At times, particularly the faster male-vocalled passages, I'm reminded of latterday Doomed, while some of the slower sections are more reminiscent of Eye Of Solitude: neither of those comparisons dominate the EP, however. It's very much its own beast.

The band describe their aim as: "This is a project of Melodic Doom Metal yet funeral and spiritual music that describes the eternal sorrow and misery above the earth, the slow death of our souls plus our human nature and instincts under the ownership of grief and pain". And I'd say that's a pretty accurate summation of what 'A Life Without' creates, although I'd also suggest that the spiritual element also manifests with some degree of uplifting hope: it's by no means unremittingly bleak, either in content, or to listen to. I'll also say that the EP improves as it unfolds, saving some of the more unusual mixes of the elements described above for the final two tracks, especially in unleashing the full range of Gogo's versatile and emotional vocal deliveries. 'Hopeless Suicide', in particular, closes proceedings with some heartrendingly intense performances before reaching a final delicate Clouds-like lament for failure and loss.

Emotively crafted, but without telegraphing or oversaturating that, and quite different and eclectic, but without relying on that, 'A Life Without' steers a very neat line in the meshing of its various influences. Commendably mature in carving out its own sound, and commendably bold in venturing somewhat off the beaten track, this is one of those releases I could easily see finding something more of a mainstream appeal amongst folk who don't usually listen to Doom of any stripe. Whether that makes it a little too accessible to hold equal appeal for more hardcore afficionados of the genre is something best established by giving it a spin and deciding for yourself, but I rate it as a tight and intelligently entertaining little gem of a release.

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Reviewer's rating: 8.5/10


Tracklist :
1. The Endless Fall Of Grief
2. One Love
3. My Solitude
4. Hopeless Suicide

Duration : Approx. 36 minutes

Visit the Aeonian Sorrow bandpage.

Reviewed on 2020-04-15 by Mike Liassides
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