I wanted to review something doomladen this week but the first few albums I tried out belted right out of the gate or lost me with sub-standard vocals. Four or five in, I found this one, the debut of a doom/death band from the small Swiss town of Nendaz, and it firmly hit the sweet spot for me. It's funeral doom as it opens, taking its sweet time to move but doing so steadily and atmospherically, but it spends much of its time a little faster at the pace you might expect for doom/death, ramping at points, especially late in the album, but never really becoming fast.
Frankly, I was firmly on board by the time that the vocals arrive. There are two voices here, both of them harsh but one easily warmer than the other. I'm not sure which of them is which, but it looks like one belongs to guitarist Marc Dalton and the other to bassist Robin Délèze. If I'm not missing the mark, they're there in that long intro to Seeds of Light adding texture as musical instruments rather than vocals. They certainly do that even when they're singing because texture is a huge deal here, and it's why this album often brought an obscure pioneer to mind as an inspiration.
That's Winds of Sirius, who came from Bourg-en-Bresse on just the other side of the French border from Switzerland, so further away in time than distance, their sole release being back in 1999. It's an album I go back to relatively often, because nobody does texture like them, but it's always good to hear that approach in newer bands, most often ones playing melodic doom/death. They aren't a be all and end all influence though, because I hear Celtic Frost here too and My Dying Bride, along with broader dips into funeral doom and stoner rock, maybe even a hint of Cradle of Filth.
Seeds of Light is a strong opener, patient enough to last just shy of nine minutes, which isn't wildly unusual for this band. There's only one "short" song here, La sorcière du Vegenand, which wraps in under five minutes, the other four stretching from almost eight to over nine. This seems natural to them, because all these songs wander and evolve, dropping often into slow and aching melody and eventually bouncing back up to a firm vehemence. There's a wonderful tease at a fast section late in Absolute Void that's all the better for following a long melancholy midsection.
Absolute Void may well be my favourite song here, but Feed the Fire is close and nothing's far from it, because the quality and imagination are consistently high. Absolute Void starts with emphasis, slow but heavy and bludgeoning, enough so that it moves into textured sludge metal, before that drop into a gorgeous midsection. Even as it grows out of that, it maintains a hypnotic rhythm that suddenly clears, as if the fog has moved aside, and we're in that teasing thrash section and then a set of stoner rock riffs, before it wraps up. It has quite the growth and every moment is blissful.
It would have been hard to match that one, but the Wizards give it their best. Feed the Fire trawls in stoner rock from the outset and stays there for a while, but eventually deepens to doom, adding some more sludge later too. La sorcière du Vegenand ups the tempo, starting out faster than any other song here gets, that one brief moment in Absolute Void aside. It's hardly fast though, just a steady step up from everything else here, especially early on. Reign, the longest song on offer, has its energy too to close out, and it doesn't outstay its welcome in the slightest.
While it's not hard for me to pick a favourite track here, it's harder to pick a favourite aspect. None of the four musicians does anything but build a coherent band sound. Nobody's trying to steal the spotlight or show off what they can do. I like the steady but solid drumming of Ludovic Bornet and how the other instruments often join it in providing rhythm, even the guitars. I like Délèze's bass, which gets one solo moment to shine, and I like his and Dalton's vocals, which walk that fine line of being both harsh and melodic. So few harsh vocalists nail intonation. These guys have it down.
At the end of the day, though, which is when doom/death has most power, it's the guitars that I'd call out for highest praise, because they nail every tone they aim for. They work perfectly in heavy riffing, keeping the weight of this music around us like a cave, and they work even better when in a sort of chime emulation mode, echoing through that cave. So kudos to Dalton and Adrien Bornet, but really kudos to everyone involved here for creating such a glorious texture. I don't know where Wiznan is but I can buy into these guys being wizards and I look forward to whatever they'll conjure up next.