Circumstances have led to me listening to the first third or the first half of this album on half a dozen occasions now. It's becoming an old friend and a very comfortable one. This is atmospheric doom with plenty of emphasis on both of those words. Doom is seen as slow and depressing, and rightly so, but in the right hands, it can become exquisite and, whenever that happens, it tends to become uplifting for me. This definitely becomes exquisite at a lot of points and sometimes outright sublime.
Rise to the Sky is a one man band, Sergio G. from Santiago, Chile, playing every instrument, and he's a little quicker with them than a lot of doom metallers would be, without ever getting quick enough to leave the genre. Maybe that helps it feel a little perkier, but that's not a good adjective to use here. I would go with majestic, because these are patient slabs of doom where everything feels particularly huge. This is epic doom to play insanely loud in the ruins of ancient cathedrals. I get the impression of Sergio being about ten feet tall and all his instruments scaled to match.
The rhythm section here is what makes it sound majestic, though I'm aware that the rhythm section is the same guy that's singing and playing lead. With his rhythm section hat on, he's creating those vast power chords and cavernous beats and making us think this is all way bigger than it is. Occasionally, he calms down, like halfway through Dream the Pain is Gone or during the waterfall-fuelled beginning to Let Me Drown with You but we still don't lose that illusion of size. It just feels more natural, like we're being shown not the wonders built by generations of craftsmen but by millennia of incessant wind and water.
Either way he goes, that's the backdrop he provides to his other selves, wearing lead hats. There are eight songs proper here, plus an interlude at the heart of the album to separate the sides, and much of it is taken up by what plays to me like duets. His guitar goes high, soaring with the angels, while his voice goes low, growling like an elemental, and the contrast between the two is powerful and almost omnipresent here.
I'm not sure what meaning we should take from that but I often imagined these two as representing players on a grand stage. Maybe the guitar is the gods and the voice the last Titan or the human race. Maybe the guitar is our mortal world and the voice is the land of the dead. Maybe the guitar is simply the force of good and the voice the corresponding force of evil. However I thought of it, it was always played out patiently over aeons with neither side ever able to do anything but communicate. The two worlds can't mix except in musical form here courtesy of Sergio G.
The most obvious flaw is that everything I've said thus far holds true however we look at this album. It holds true if I'm talking about an individual track, like See Me Fall Down or Turn Us into Stone. It holds true if I'm talking about the two sides, separated by only Passion. And it holds true if I'm talking about the album as a fifty four minute piece of music. It's reasonably fair to say that each of these eight songs is doing much of the same thing in much of the same way. Sure, there's a female spoken voice during the title track, Liebestod kicks off with some neat violin and whatever's Sergio is doing late in Turn Us into Stone is quite the eye opener, but there's not really that much variety to be found here. It's not what the album is about.
And that's likely to be your decision point. If atmospheric doom is your thing and you can just immerse yourself in it all day long, then this is a peach of an album that ought to be high on your must buy list. It's the third Rise to the Sky album since 2019, with another one due in September, and, while I haven't heard those, it seems reasonably safe to think they ought to be must buys too.
On the other hand, if you like atmospheric doom but it doesn't make your heart sing, you'll probably want more from this one than it wants to give you. It does what it does, very well but pretty much the same way throughout. But hey, like anything I review that piques your interest, check it out wherever you like to check things out and see what you think about it.