Release date: May 10, 2011
After the Chicago doom trust released their last two albums, The Novella Reservoir and Into Night’s Requiem Infernal, some fans were beginning to doubt the last half of the band’s name. Certainly no one is complaining about the psychedelic and stoner metal experimentation the boys were playing with. It’s just, we were missing that sonic despondency Novembers Doom is so noted for. Fortunately the guys have made their eighth effort, Aphotic, an album with a feel that harks back to their earlier records, but perhaps a touch more aggressive. Aphotic means “having no light” and this album lives up to the name. Dark and dreary, it gives you the sense there is no light left anywhere in the world. Paul Kuhr has incredible deep growls and he shows them off to perfection on the opening track, “The Dark Host.” The writing on this album is outstanding and the lyrics to “The Dark Host” are some of the best. Kuhr’s death growls meld perfectly with the dark lyrics:
“This is the law, the law of the land
Where Angels earn their keep.
The dark light, the dark light curse.
We cheated our way to midnight.”
The second track, “Harvest Scythe” is not as doomy as the rest of the album but it is heavy and brutal, with a good mix of clean vocals and growls, a catchy chorus, angry lyrics, a crushing riff and pounding drums. “Buried” brings you back to the doom with harsh lyrics and a killer solo.
“What Could Have Been” is absolutely amazing. An acoustic ballad with piano and violin that may not appeal to most metalheads, but I find it to be a pleasant addition on this album. After a 90 second acoustic intro, Kuhr takes the lead on the vocals but gives way to Anneke Van Giersbergen, former vocalist of The Gathering. She sings the majority of the vocals and her performance is simply incredible. Her haunting, angelic voice smothers you with sadness yet this song is so beautiful you just can’t stop listening to it. Rachel Barton Pine’s violin work is ethereal.
After listening to this emotional song you may want to turn off the CD and quietly revel in the bleakness, but if you’re like me you’re ready to get back to the metal. “Of Age And Origin – Part 1: A Violent Day” brings you back in good fashion. As the name suggests it’s full of angry, violent lyrics and has a decent solo thrown in. Dan Swanö (Nightingale, Edge of Sanity, Bloodbath), who mixed Aphotic, turns in a superb guest vocal appearance here. “Of Age And Origin – Part 2: A Day Of Joy” Is the Yang to Part 1’s Yin, a mostly acoustic based piece, both dreary and melancholy.
The album ends with a couple of good, lengthy, dark and doomy tracks, “Six Sides” and “Shadow Play.” The former grabs you by the throat with a dominating riff line, and its death metal tendrils wrap around your lungs sucking you into the dark void. The latter is a darkly elemental auditory rendering of where the band came from and who they are now.
Aphotic brings Novembers Doom back to their roots a bit, without surrendering the growth they’ve made over the last couple of records. The album is superbly produced. The dark lyrics are well-written and Kuhr’s vocals are better than ever. The emotion runs high as is to be expected. One of their best albums yet, absolutely a masterpiece!