Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Black Oath: The Third Aeon (2011)


If there is one genre dominating 2011, it's doom. A staggering number of fantastic doom albums have come out already this year. Personally, I think you can never have too much doom.

Italy's Black Oath released their first full-length, The Third Aeon, to a very positive reception in Terrorizer. It's easy to see why. The sound of this album could be the standard by which all traditional doom can be judged. The overdriven guitar tone contrasts with meaty bass, the drums are natural, and organ adds drama. A close comparison would be Candlemass if they had organ. Most importantly, it sounds like human beings are playing the instruments, fingers audibly sliding to the next chord.

The riffs make all the right references as well: some Sabbath here, a heaping of Candlemass, and a touch of My Dying Bride. "Evil Sorcerer" is a particularly great offering. The pace is a crawl throughout most of the album, and they understand the rule that the notes you don't play are just as important as the ones you play.

Even if the sound and approach are nearly perfect, the album is not. The clean vocal delivery is uniformly flat and uninteresting. It's not that he does anything wrong, it's just that he may as well not even be there. And the album is a perfect example of why great riffs do not necessarily make great songs, with many dull sections, overlong compositions, and pointless meandering. There are a few fantastic pieces here, but some (e.g. "Growth of a Star Within") should have been left on the cutting floor.

The Verdict: Black Oath's debut has plenty going for it--a nearly perfect analog sound is evidently hard to achieve. And it has some great riffs. But it often fails in the all-important category of songwriting. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

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