Solemnly marching Death Doom Metal sounds with a melodic twist have a soothing quality. Comfort in dark, dreary sounds. Drenched in a sea of sorrow and countless tears. Don’t you think?
Just savor the soaring guitars that always kind of feel out of place. Yet they must be there, or the tune sounds incomplete. Or visit the measured growls that compete with clear voice lyrics, as the theme and atmosphere demand. All of that renders this tasty amalgam of Extreme Metal into something really palatable.
And you will want more of it. Because it indeed soothes the suffering soul. Now, doesn’t it? Vanha already impressed us with their powerful 2016 epic Within the Mist of Sorrow. Now, finally, they are back with their newest release Melancholia, kind of inadequately timed to hit the shelves just at the end of the year. So reviewers like me can miss them better. But then, they pulled that stunt already for the last album. Nothing new in this lonely fog of trepidation of theirs.
But hang on a minute! They? Nope, not anymore. Jan Johansson‘s co-pilot Jesse Oinas left Vanha in 2017 whilst the outfit soldiered on with only one multi-instrumentalist. And this bears two potential issues. First, one-man shows very often lack depth and innovation. And second, the dreaded sophomore cliff usually looms heavily on new bands. Especially after a debut album that garnered a certain success, with the hype that goes with it.
So, how did Melancholia pan out? The record for sure latches on seamlessly where Within the Mist of Sorrow left off. No massive change, no mind-boggling redirection of efforts into lands unknown. If anything, you will still find echoes of My Dying Bride or Paradise Lost in them tear-drenched badlands.
But I – for sure – detected a pretty sturdy excursion into barebone country of the likes of My Silent Wake, with some typical Insomnium-esque shenanigans attached. In other words, a mix of Doom Death Metal and Melodic Death Metal that gets us kind of a frugal new style, yet still meaty enough to please. Straight off the bat with The Road at the very beginning.
Yet again, much of what is on Melancholia becomes this very same primordial soup of agony and sorrow. Not exactly the same type of tune, but always kinda circling around the same theme. As if we get to gnaw the very same bone all over again. In other words, a tad more variation in the tune would have made a hell of a lot of difference. Even if the sometimes great solos scattered here and there – like in Fade Away – are pretty juicy, to say the least.
That said, Melancholia excels in somberly grandiose, sepulchral arrangements throughout the record. All this with crisp, relatively simple, and hefty drum work that really drives these wailers forward. And simple does not mean bad.
Gosh, Starless Sleep – for instance – really shames whatever Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost usually tries to depict. That funeral marching band sound with a metal taste nobody seemed to be able to match, until now. Vanha just got onto that very same plane. Or even a trifle above it, come to think of it.
Or the seriously dark airs of Moonspell on steroids that Your Heart in My Hands embarks on in the second half of the track. Turning from a mellow and typical Vanha tune into an absolute kicker all of a sudden, solo included. I really like that progression in the album, which increases scratchiness and – indeed – loudness towards the end of Melancholia.
All those tracks remain perfectly timed and aligned until the end approaches through those hazy fogs of anxiety and terror. Which portrays a certain flow and maturity on the album that frankly serves as one of the main pillars of this record.
To wrap this up, Vanha did not necessarily add a great many new impulses to their former offering. On the contrary, Jan Johansson banked on known values and just let Melancholia flow out of Within the Midst of Sorrow. And this is a fine strategy for a sophomore album, lest it goes awry like so many before this one.
I really enjoyed this somewhat earnest approach to Doom Death Metal with its epic-sounding cathedral riffing and solemn beats. Not to forget the solos in this sea of grief that come across as fresh interruptions in a stream of unabashed emotion.
Thus, Melancholia is yet another good and curiously alluring record that the doom masters of Vanha bring to our boom boxes.
And does the RMR deck crew already look forward to the next barrel of tears of this outfit? Damn straight they do, early as it may be.
Ed’s note: The album made it onto the 2018 Top 10 Records list. Congrats!