posted on 11/2010 By:
Nescience was/is the full-length debut from Greek doom/trad/power/smorgasbord five-piece Heathendom. Originally released in 2008, Metal On Metal Records is giving it a fresh issuing here in 2010 with one big spice-up (more on that later). Despite being a reissue, it fits right in with what has been a big-time sleeper year for doom and, in this case, doom-related forms of metal.
Forming an image of how Heathendom puts together said doom-related music requires a bit of deconstruction. An attentive ear will reveal a core of epic 80s doom expanded upon by theatrical power metal, melodic thrash, and sprinklings of old school progressive metal. The result is a band located at the busy intersection of Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath, Candlemass, early Overkill, the slower works of Iced Earth, Helloween, and even solo King Diamond. Nescience is steeped in tradition and runs away with it, providing nine tracks and nearly an hour of outstanding metal that successfully straddles the should-be-awkward power/doom line.
Each song on Nescience shows how Heathendom excels at constantly shifting metal that doesn’t get bogged down in its own prog aspirations or compositional complexities. Take the title track as an example: it thrashes and chugs out of the gate, leads into anthemic verse and chorus sections, a heavy bridge, and some ridiculous theatrics at certain points. (Good ridiculous, not bad ridiculous.) Despite these shifts, it never loses focus, returning to key themes and melodies at exactly the right moments. Perfecting this approach is “The Dollhouse,” an emotionally hefty number that builds gradually on layers of first-rate doom riffs, a haunting chorus, and a spectacular vocal performance. Dimitris Koutsouvelis is a true standout at the mic, resembling at his more extreme times Matt Barlow or our aforementioned King, but mostly having his own commanding presence and wailing roar. His performance is exemplary of how every band member shows great versatility, from how the keys may sound like piano, faux strings or organs to how the guitars change from those monstrous doom riffs to soft acoustics and wild solos. The layering of the vocals is also the icing on the cake of a very thought-out and orchestrated production. Nearly all of these tools and methods are shown off through the dramatic, sometimes operatic and sometimes heavy-as-shit “A Sick Man’s Dreams/Blissful Hell,” a highlight which leads perfectly into the album’s epic closer.
That closer is “Haunted In Hell,” and it is the best proof of the band’s ambitious scope and of their ability to carry their vision out. Originally included on their self-titled demo, the version here is new for this 2010 reissue, merging “Haunted Within” (new to Nescience) with “Hell Within” (on all versions of the album) to form a 20-minute suite. It is a journey of melancholic doom, classical passages, subdued prog, and plenty of mood-minded flourishes such as female choir parts and Middle-Eastern melodies. The funny thing about this song is that not every section works to build towards some grandiose finale, and the finale itself isn’t as staggering as it could be, but it doesn’t really matter. Not a bland or poorly-written section exists, and most are actually quite profound, ensuring that the whole never loses the attention of the listener even when certain transitions are less than 100% organic.
Bottom line: Nescience will certainly not be for everyone, as certain fans will consider it too throwback and others might be turned off by its eccentricities. But it will really be for some, and that “some” ought to know exactly who they are. I almost feel bad about the name-drop-athon above, because listeners should just spin this album and let Heathendom manipulate their necks without having to think about the influences or what the hell it sounds like. But that’s the beauty: you don’t have to analyze it, you just have to rock the living shit out of it.
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