A Painful Journey into Nihil
posted on 4/2011 By:
Traditional doom is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of South American metal, but Chile’s Condenados provide further evidence that this one-time niche genre is spreading like a weed. Formed in 2005, Condenados has released a handful of demos, splits and EPs over the past six years, but A Painful Journey into Nihil is the band’s first full-length release. Condenados plays it straight with their doom, forging a sound somewhere between the melodic epics of Solitude Aeturnus and the more stripped-down style of Pale Divine and (of course) Black Sabbath. Lyrically, the band does not stray far off the path either, with death and the occult as its preferred subject matter.
A Painful Journey into Nihil’s first two tracks, sung in Spanish (the remainder of the songs feature English lyrics), are plodding funeral procession-like numbers, but the band colors the riffs with some bent notes and trills that provide a sinister undercurrent to the mournful atmosphere. While the tracks are well performed, it is a welcome change of pace when a galloping riff reminiscent of “Children of the Grave” injects some energy into the proceedings at the close of “Cargando La Cruz (El Inquisidor)”.
Track three, “Welcome to My Grave” has a different vibe than the rest of the album, with livelier, more angular, rock-based riffing that brings to mind The Obsessed. Musically the band nails it, but it is here that singer/guitarist Fernando “The Wizard” V.’s vocal limitations come to light. In his native tongue, Fernando’s weak delivery is less noticeable, but in English, it is clear that his voice is underpowered for the rather demanding vocal lines he undertakes. His performance is not cringe-inducing, but it lacks the character to elevate the competently performed music into the realm of greatness.
The balance of the album is composed of more efforts that simmer, but never quite reach a full boil. “Centuries of Darkness” has potential to be the album's centerpiece, but a less-than-convincing falsetto scream flubs what could have been an effective climax. The track is somewhat redeemed, however, by a lively, foot-stomping groove near the end.
Condenados seems to have the talent to craft good doom metal, but the band tends to write songs that focus on its weak point. The Wizard’s voice is not strong enough to carry the load that the songs on A Painful Journey into Nihil demand. Condenados would be best served by getting a more confident and capable vocalist, but failing that, putting more emphasis on the instrumental side of their music via some strong, thematic riffs would help. As it stands, A Painful Journey into Nihil is mildly enjoyable, but Condenados is not quite ready for prime time.
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