Shape Of Despair | ‘Monotony Fields’
Finland’s Shape of Despair have always been one of the shadowy forebears of funeral doom.
Following hot on the heels of the legendary Skepticism, they’re one of the names that jumps to mind when the genre is brought up.
That said, they’re a band that, like Skepticism, arrived in a flurry of activity and enthusiasm, before dropping off into relevant inactivity. We actually haven’t had a proper album from them in over a decade.
It’s fantastic to see then, that like Skepticism with ‘Alloy’, they’ve been able to re-focus themselves and deliver an album of genuinely towering quality.
Each Track An Expanse
‘Monotony Fields’ is a record that thankfully is anything but lethargic. If each track is an expanse, they’re ones that display fascinating different facets of the same band.
This is organic, powerful, and poised metal of the most severe quality.
All the best aspects of the group’s efforts are crystallised in opener ‘Reaching the Innermost’. Slowly building through ten minutes of the most powerful doom, the simple piano keys and disembodied vocals of Natalie Koskinen give the track an echoing power that is kept up for the rest of the record.
What stands out about the album right away is the spacing and impact that each track possesses. Often, tracks will transition and boom out with authority. Through good earphones, it is genuinely depressive.
Talk about impact. It’s rare to hear a record that sounds so warmly recorded, but that can be so icy cold in its delivery.
We’re given three ten-minute epics to start with, but they slide by in that kind of confident, powerful way that really well-written music does.
Relative relief is delivered in the form of five minute dirge ‘The Distant Dream of Life’, which brings to mind the best moments of Rapture, who share several members with SoD.
Like most of the best metal, there’s deceptively little to it beyond fine song-writing.
Take ‘The Blank Journey’ – it ambles along with all the pomp and power that is to be expected of it. Yet a simple swing forward in pace, an added line of keys, and it transforms into something glacially unstoppable.
What’s great about ‘Monotony Fields’ is how it never falls into the pitfalls that this kind of gothic-tinged metal can so readily encounter. The ‘Beauty and the Beast’ singing style that can so often sicken never rears it’s head. Strong material, grand in its scope, keeps things both rolling and punching. The sweeping scope of this style of metal does the rest.
Really, it’s the scanning scope of the album that invites comparisons with sprawling doom epics of recent times, like Virgin Black’s ‘…Mezzo Forte’ and Mourning Beloveth’s masterful ‘Formless’. There’s the same versatility, the same depth and power, but it’s all seen through the crushing dimensions of the funeral doom prism.
They are masters in their own house. Take whatever misgivings you may have had about the band and cast them to the wind.
This is very, very fine stuff. It can and will sweep you away.
4.4 / 5 –Lorcan Archer ::: 05/07/15