posted on 6/2007 By:
With an impressive catalogue of releases already tendered, and an ever-growing pile of exceptional bands constantly being added to their roster, Sweden’s IHATE Records has easily earned themselves a stately position amongst very few other label’s as True Champions of the doom metal genre. In fact, I’d have to say they’ve been damn near faultless in their release decisions as of late, so it wasn’t much of a surprise to discover they’d jumped on the opportunity to release the third opus from Pennsylvania’s own kings of doom, Pale Divine. What was surprising, however, is just how fantastic this record turned out to be.
For those fans of the genre not already familiar with the band, Pale Divine’s brand of classic doom is cut from a similar cloth as Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, Trouble, Witchfinder General, Pentagram, and of course, Black Sabbath. The band’s two previous full lengths -- Thunder Perfect Mind and Eternity Revealed -- both leaned heavily on the 70’s rock elements of proto-doom classics, giving the riffs and soloing an ample dusting of Blue Cheer-like psychedelia, and subsequently a fair bit of boogie in the doomed triad’s woogie. However, a new label and yet another change in the bass guitar camp has found the band strolling down a different bend in the path – a much heavier path.
The most immediate difference in terms of heaviness is how clean and hefty Cemetery Earth sounds compared to the band’s previous efforts. The fuzziness that canopied Thunder Perfect Mind and Eternity Revealed has been blown away in favor of a much more vibrant, robust mix that not only adds serious mass to the bass and guitar riffs, but also makes it that much easier to pick out what each player is doing at any given time during each of the songs. Darin McCloskey’s deceptively incomplex drumming can be heard fluttering about just as clearly as newcomer John Gaffney’s deep, quaking bass lines, and guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener’s copious amounts of solos are absolutely luminous, and his riffs have found a new muscle that’s weighty as a lumbering bison. It’s a stout, juicy mix that simply demands to be cranked up to a head-rattling level.
The next shift in heaviness has to do with the evolution of Pale Divine’s nucleus. The band’s sound has become much more imbued with traditional heavy metal this time around, and it serves them very well. Directly from the gate, “The Eyes of Destiny” (possibly the heaviest tune they’ve ever written), “Fire and Ice”, and “Broken Wings” all demonstrate the kind of driving force and heavy rhythms set in stone through classic works from Manowar, Cirith Ungol, and Manilla Road, et al, but they’re filtered through a lens of pure, classic doom. And although this foundation can be heard throughout the entirety of this record, the band hasn’t completely abandoned the 70’s-rock elements, so diehard fans should certainly not fear. There’s still plenty of evidence in much of Diener’s guitar-work, especially towards the latter part of the record: the ballsy, repentant “The Seventh Circle”, and the bluesy-jam feel of “Soul Searching” for example. The true epicenter of this work, however, hits like a bloody megaton bomb with “(I Alone) the Traveler” and its follow-up, the 10-minute “Cemetery Earth”. These two tunes deliver such intense feelings of anguish and penance, and they’re conveyed through such an incredibly silky-smooth delivery, they easily stand as the best one-two punch I’ve heard on a doom record in many, many years. In fact, their worth alone should make this record a no-brainer for any fan of the genre.
With as many accolades as I’ve already thrown towards this record, it’s hard to believe I haven’t even touched on the two pinnacle elements that push Cemetery Earth over the top and into “must have” territory: the vocals and lead guitar work of co-founder, Greg Diener. Folks, this record is a lead guitarist’s dream, and there are simply too many beautifully crafted solos to highlight just a few in one review. Suffice to say, if Tony Iommi were to sit down and listen to this bastard, he’d find exactly the sort of inspiration necessary to craft the wickedest solo to hit ears in 30 years. And as far as Diener’s voice is concerned, his smoky, soulful conveyance is still in a league of its own, only this time around there’s more variance in his delivery. Where previous efforts found him spending a lionshare of his time straight-up wailing, Cemetery Earth allows him a bit more room to just sing, and the results are extremely rewarding.
Reviewers are faced with a surprisingly difficult task when writing about an album that truly moves us: how do you deliver the goods to readers without sounding like a pure ass-kissing douchebag? Well, in the end I simply resigned myself to wear the bejeweled crown of The Lord of Ass-Kissers, because after spending about two months with this record, I just can’t find a flaw. I don’t hand out perfect scores very often, so that should be a good indicator of just how fantastic I think this work is. At this point, I don't even think the looming Candlemass record is likely to knock Cemetery Earth from my #1 position for 2007. This is a true classic of the genre.
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