(Steel Gallery 2017)
Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus hold a special place in my heart. But these are difficult times to be a devotee of epic doom metal. The mighty Candlemass still tours (albeit without Leif Edling, with a keyboard player, and with Mats Leven on vocals), but appears to be largely defunct as a recording entity. As for Solitude Aeturnus, I fear we have permanently lost the Texas masters of doom to the sands of time. It’s all very depressing. I know many of you feel the same way, so I write these words to bring you all great tidings of doom. There is a band that has dedicated itself to keeping the spirit of those hallowed artists alive. The band is Doomocracy. They hail from Greece, the birthplace of democracy. In 2014, they released an excellent debut album entitled The End is Written. And they have now returned with their second album, Visions & Creatures of Imagination, on Steel Gallery Records.
If epic doom is your thing, then you will find much to enjoy about Visions & Creatures of Imagination. Guitarists Angelos Tzanis and Harry Dokos churn out one towering, ominous riff of sadness after another, sometimes backed by faint keyboards that effectively augment the foreboding atmosphere without sapping the guitars of their leaden weight and power. The rhythm section of bassist Manolis Schizakis and drummer Minas Vasilakis lumbers like an elephant, each footfall making the ground shake like thunder, holding the tempos firmly in check. And singer Michael Stavrakakis turns in a jaw-dropping performance, his clean, clear, commanding voice dripping with sorrow, melancholy and doom at every turn. There are places where his resemblance to Robert Lowe is eerie, but he definitely retains his own character and vibe throughout. Just listen to the chorus of “One with Pain,” which includes the lines, “You’ll hear my screams / But you won’t see me cry / You’ll see me laugh / Yet I will no longer live.” The mesmerizing vocal sends shivers down my spine. Stirring stuff, indeed.
Make no mistake: Visions& Creatures of Imagination is an eight-song, 51-minute journey into the depths of sorrow. You’ll confront the well of souls at the gallows end, all the while haunting the obscure as destiny falls to ruin. Doomocracy travel a well-marked path of epic doom, and they do not deviate or diverge from it in the slightest. That said, I do take issue with the reviews classifying Visions& Creatures of Imagination as nothing more than a faceless copy of Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus. Contrary to that sentiment, Doomocracy do have their own spin on this classic sound, particularly in terms of their sometimes exotic melodies, which feel quintessentially Greek to my untrained ear. From listening to this album, even if I had no idea where they were from, I would guess that Doomocracy were a Greek band because that is how many of the melodies strike me. It’s hard to describe, and maybe I’m totally off-base, but it’s what I hear, and it’s what distinguishes Doomocracy from the masters.
Look, I know there are other bands out there proudly carrying the torch once held by Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus. By way of example, for my money, Sorcerer are one of the best metal bands of any subgenre (not just doom) today. The new Below album is excellent. But my point is that high-quality epic doom acts are a relatively scarce commodity in the metal underground in 2017. Doomocracy fit that bill splendidly. Those who enjoy the style are strongly encouraged to check out Visions & Creatures of Imagination, a well-crafted doom album that captures the essence of this mystical sound with passion and skill.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~