Can doom metal ever escape its self-imposed exile into the wastelands of mediocrity and disdain for anything accessible? A new wave of bands who step out just a bit beyond the confines of Doom are saying an emphatic "Yes."
Grown Below released their first album The Long Now in 2011 to rave reviews by metal fans. Mixing traditional doom with ambient and atmospheric interludes including chilling violin and female vocals, the band created a traditional, yet nuanced sound. With that release, Grown Below announced to the world that sludge and doom could be legitimate forms of musicianship.
With The Other Sight, Matthijs Vanstaen, Lennart Vanstaen, Johan Heyrman and Jolan Chen have further evolved their sound in a way that should appeal to current fans while making their music available to metal fans who desire a little more energy.
This is a very different album than the band's first. Gone are the violins and female vocals. New are brass instruments and a modern guitar sound. All in all, a new and unexpected direction for Grown Below's sound.
The Other Sight continues the story of The Long Now, taking the protagonist to live in a cave of mirrors. His descent into madness drives him to suicide after realizing he is alone and everyone around him are mere "Phantoms" of his own reflection.
A dark story for a dark album. Are the songs up to the challenge? "New Throne" starts us off pensive, growing in power and arrogance and introduces a couple new tricks in Grown Below's toolbox. The song commences with the heavy riffs we'd expect and meanders through atmospheric interludes before ending with horn and trumpet and a bit of high, fast guitar previously unheard from the band.
"My Triumph" continues the pensive mood and incorporates some heavier doom elements. Coming in at thirteen minutes, this song provides ample opportunity for a complete sludge song.
With "Phantoms", we are taken in a completely new and surprising direction. Reminiscent of old God Smack, this song might — dare I say it — be suitable for some airplay. I could definitely hear this song on WAAF in Boston or KUPD in Phoenix. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing pop about the sound. It's just more accessible than the rest, and may be the best song on the album, showcasing Vanstaen's vocal talent to the fullest.
With it's slow build to a straight-out doom payoff, "Reverie" gives us ten minutes of everything Grown Below does well wrapped in a fascinating story. Passionate singing, interesting interludes and heavy guitars. If I could define the band with one song, it would be this one.
The Other Sight isn't the album Grown Below fans expect, but it is most definitely the album Doom Metal needs. I highly recommend it to fans of doom and sludge that want something more than forty-five-minutes of plodding, repetitive riffs and indecipherable growling. For those who simply love good music, and don't care about the genre, this album is sure to deliver something different for your music collection.
Doom is moving in new and refreshing directions. Can it escape the shadows, moving into the fore?
Yes, and Grown Below just might lead the way.