Tuesday 7 December 2021

Rivers of Sorrow - Existence Beyond Emptiness (2021)

Country: Turkey
Style: Doom/Death Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 19 Nov 2021
Sites: Bandcamp | Instagram | YouTube

It's been almost three years since I reviewed a doom/death album from Turkey, so it's about time I listened to another one. The one in 2019 was Of Past and Passion, the solid debut from Forgotten, a six piece band who hail from Ankara, that nation's capital if not remotely its largest city. Rivers of Sorrow is also based in Ankara, but it's a one man project created by... well, I have absolutely no idea because I'm not finding any other information about the band online at all.

It's capable stuff, though it takes a while to establish itself. It starts ambitiously, with a nine and a half minute opener, Night Queen, with piano bookends and quite a journey in between. Sadly, the intro is simple and derivative and the song itself ends up in a Golden Brown decorated rhythm, an unusual song to come down the years as the Stranglers' biggest hit but an even more unusual one to constantly come to mind during the second half of a Turkish doom/death song. The end is much more like it, the piano beautifully played with a real sense of melancholy.

The other catch for me is that the vocals are hardly sophisticated. They're there and they do what they need to do, but that's about all during Night Queen and the much shorter second track, Cold Flares of Sun, which does at least find some interesting warmth. It was only the keyboard work on that opener that kept me listening. And I'm happy that I did, because it gets a lot better, as of the third song, Dreams without Hope (Genetic Disease), which is a real gem.

This one starts out more urgently and more confidently, and with ethnic melodies floating around in the background. The vocals are much more interesting too, deeper and more guttural, as if this singer didn't mean it for two tracks but absolutely does now. I was onboard from the outset, but it only gets better. Just as we're getting used to how Rivers of Sorrow sound at a more urgent pace, that pace is ruthlessly cut down in its prime with an utterly glorious slowdown that kicks in just as we're hitting the two minute mark.

I adore this midsection, which seemed to evoke the cover art. If that's water, with light filtering in but only so far, then that's where this starts. Then the song dives deep into the abyss, all the light gone, but we see something anyway and that's a fantastic world, an set of otherworldly melodies laid over some cavernous guitar and primal drums. The vocals multilayer, in elegaic fashion, then get more urgent in response to... something. Everything about this song is great, but it keeps on getting more interesting as it goes and I had to listen a few times before continuing, revelling in it but also a little worried that the quality wouldn't continue.

Fortunately it does. Next up are the two singles that preceded the album, Her Gün Biraz Daha and Endless Suffer. I prefer the former, which is almost trancelike for a while, deep and rhythmic, with an achingly slow vibe, even when a soft speaking voice narrates for a while. If you don't connect to the vibe, you won't like the song, but I did and I did. The latter has a neatly ominous beginning, an effortlessly patient bass setting the scene. A quiet guitar takes over and teases us until it all kicks in at once, again around that two minute mark but escalating this time into something gothic and dark and enticing.

Neither of those singles can match Dreams without Hope, nor can anything else here, but they're good songs and they show that Rivers of Sorrow has real promise. This album may be inconsistent, especially with a nine and a half minute piano nocturne to wrap things up, but there's good stuff on offer and one absolute peach in Dreams without Hope. And I'm going back to listen to that one again right now, while sending the best of luck to whoever's behind the Rivers of Sorrow name. I'd be interested in checking out album number two.

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