posted on 5/2012 By:
Ahab’s ever-pulverizing and gorgeously textured music has had me on their proverbial hook since the brilliant 2006 release, The Call of the Wretched Sea. Funeral doom at its finest, the glacial pace doesn’t suit all ears, but The Giant marks Ahab’s most stunning and ensnaring progression yet. I’ve been living with this album for weeks, unsure of how to put its staggering greatness into words. This marks the one occasion where I feel comfortable allowing my numerical rating to speak for itself, as this nautical monolith has left me an inarticulate mess of adoration. Whereas their previous albums were inspired by Herman Melville’s violent epic Moby Dick (The Call of the Wretched Sea) and the tragedy that befell the crew of the Essex whaling vessel (The Divinity of Oceans), The Giant draws its subject matter from Edgar Allan Poe’s only complete novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Filled with adventure, disaster, shipwreck, and death, it serves as a perfect muse for Ahab’s songwriting genius.
Amidst their trademark heaviness, this album shows Ahab’s evolution of dynamics and powerful melodies. The cruelly crushing riffs are still there in gargantuan force, but they no longer comprise the majority of each song’s sonic vessel. “Further South” opens with quiet strummed guitar, reverberating as though each string was struck inside an undersea cavern. Slowly and deliberately, drummer Cornelius Althammer strikes toms to accent the introductory riff, before introducing gentle jazz drumming. It’s abundantly clear at this point that The Giant not only borrows from a different story, but also opts for sweeping change in tone, composition, and mood. Heart-wrenching clean vocals (Enslaved’s Herbrand Larsen offers his talents alongside Daniel Droste) are next to join this solemn and aching piece, and the words of solitude and damnation are visceral and achingly beautiful. Once the somber verse concluded, I found myself nearly praying for some splintering growls from Droste, just to puncture the woeful atmosphere that had enveloped my heart like a treacherous fog. Once the waves of distortion and roaring vocals come in, the intensity is like a lighthouse set to flame: incendiary and devastating.
Twelve minutes of glimmering and shifting waters come next with “Aeons Elapse”, which once again displays Ahab’s use of clean and brutal vocals, creating ethereal moments amidst massive mountains of doom. In this way, recurring riffs and sludgy tempos never become cumbersome, and the songwriting variety is yet another impressive aspect of this album. That said, there is still a great deal of repetition, but I found it to be more soothing and hypnotic than drudging or prosaic.
“Deliverance” is a jazzy doom dirge that balances heft with grace, and it's perhaps the most atmospheric track of the album. Despite its slow pace, there is a driving force behind each sung and strummed note that pushes the piece forward with incredible command. “Antarctica The Polymorphess” is the penultimate song of The Giant’s mammoth reign, and it creates a post-rock ambiance with drums gradually building urgency before crashing into full-fledged darkness and ferocity. Haunting clean vocal harmonies rise like driftwood amidst the tidal waves of guitar. There is tranquility amidst the madness, and with each monstrous maelstrom of destruction there eventually comes an interlude of mercy and calm. This is the moment where you give yourself to the storm, surrender to the stranglehold of the sea, and simply let go. “Fathoms Deep Blue” offers a chance for recovery, after one’s body has been battered and nearly defeated by saltwater and despair. Triumphant, with each note weighty with finality, it’s a lingering album closer that closes the book on Ahab’s exhausting and evocative journey.
There are only so many phrases I can construct without falling prey to painful reiteration, and all of my sentiments can be reduced to this: The Giant is an extraordinary album, expanding and undulating like the tides, and with the crushing prowess of the ocean itself. They have unleashed their strongest Kraken yet, and it’s murderously magnificent.
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