ReviewMy first exposure to Novembers Doom was in their very well-received The Novella Reservoir. I didn't hear the much less lauded Into Night's Requiem Infernal, but I had high hopes for the band's number eight.
Aphotic is instantly identifiable as a product of the Chicago death/doom band. It's a cleanly produced blend of mid-American death metal and English death/doom, complete with some excellent riffing and vocal work. In fact, the death growls are top-tier, while the baritone clean vocals (usually in harmonized layers) are equally powerful.
But despite the band's sound being instantly identifiable, the album lacks identity. The two-part "Of Age and Origin" is a microcosm of the issue. The first part is excellent, with the aggressive death metal contrasting to the ominous doom metal. This is what the band is good at doing. The second part is not so great, mostly because they go with the depressive kind of doom rather than the ominous kind. My Dying Bride has a knack for fragility that sets them apart in that regard; Novembers Doom can't pull it off.
There are good tracks, to be sure, like "Harvest Scythe" and "Six Sides". But there are too many failures. "What Could Have Been" features acoustic guitar and violin, but the guest female vocals take center stage, and the track doesn't have anything to tie it in with the rest of the album. Closer "Shadow Play" seems like an attempt at being Opeth.
The Verdict: When they are their own band, Novembers Doom are a very good band. But there are too many failed experiments and too much lack of identity on Aphotic, so it doesn't hold up very well. I give it 2.5 out of 5 stars.