Album: In the Shadow of Doom
Label: Nuclear War Now!
Release Date: August 31, 2018
The worship of Black Sabbath and Tony Iommi has been a time-honored tradition in the history of heavy metal. The all-encompassing, monstrous tone of an overdriven tube amp practically defines what it means for a song to sound “metal.” Beyond tonal tributes, the last 50 years of metal are abundant with riff after riff of Sabbath worship. After all, Black Sabbath laid the groundwork for the genre and were phenomenal in their own right. Today, another chapter has been written in the book of Sabbath worship with the release of In the Shadow of Doom by the Norwegian trio of Faustcoven.
Faustcoven appropriates the tones and imagery of their black metal compatriots with a reverb-laden, lo-fi assault to accompany the booming thunder of doom riffs. The production choice marks a clear departure from Faustcoven’s doom contemporaries; modern doom is frequently defined by boutique pedals, absurd amp heads and speaker cabinets, and a general obsession with gear. The resulting tones are typically powerful enough to shake the earth itself. Conversely, Faustcoven opts for the mystique of black metal and the shroud of a muddied production to lure the listener in closer. A sinister atmosphere emerges from this approach, capped off by the menacing roar of Gunnar Hansen’s vocals. Hansen employs a growl which is most prominently seen in second wave black metal by bands like Darkthrone and Immortal, although Hansen does have a deeper resonance which is almost borrowed from death metal. Reverb and delay pervade the vocal track, which adds another layer of atmosphere to the already ethereal soundscape.
Overall, the lo-fi production works well and accompanies the music admirably. With that being said, I couldn’t help but to wish for a deeper, fuzz-laden tone akin to Bongripper or Cough. While I love a lo-fi approach in general, some sections on In the Shadow of Doom are really conducive to the booming fuzz found in other doom albums. The production never detracted from the music, but in these times I felt that it could have made certain riffs all the more impressive.
In the Shadow of Doom’s riffs are comprised of dissonant, arpeggiated chords and sections with thick, doomy drive. The two styles tend to blend together through sprawling passages. There are very few riffs on this album which can be condensed to one or two bars; typically, they will meander on for several measures before looping back again. As a result, you get a wide array of musical ideas and various feelings being expressed. For the most part, these build to awesome moments. Anytime the tempo changes, the texture of the song feels drastically different, as the tempo is one of the few things to grasp onto in those longer sections. A great example of this occurs in the first track, “The Wicked Dead.” After the guitars and drums drop out of the mix, a sampled audio clip plays over the ringing feedback:
They should transform your friend into the slave of a devil, dead during the day, but alive by night, so he could carry out secret nefarious orders.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the origin of this undeniably badass transition. In any event, the clip builds a remarkable amount of tension and anticipation for the storm on the horizon. After the sample, Faustcoven erupts with enormous chords and a slow, pounding beat which could practically summon The Hand of Doom himself. This was my favorite moment on the album, as all of the factors I mentioned combine beautifully to evoke a haunting and evil atmosphere which is carried out through the remainder of the album.
While In the Shadow of Doom is generally well crafted and deliberate, some parts lack the malicious intent of the rest of the album. In particular, I found that “As White As She Was Pale” held a swing groove which didn’t seem to fit the other tracks. The intent was clear; the main riff is a direct homage to Black Sabbath with Ward-esque drumming and a chromatic bass lick which drives the passage forward. As pure Sabbath worship, this works well; there’s even a harmonica solo towards the end of the track. In the context of Faustcoven’s album, however, the riffs on this song don’t quite elicit hopelessness in the face of evil. Through each listen of the album, “As White As She Was Pale” snapped me out of the meditative daze I was experiencing. The atmosphere feels drastically different, and I personally didn’t care for the stark contrast.
In spite of this one miss, Faustcoven have released a masterful album which combines some of the best qualities of Black Sabbath and black metal. The caustic malevolence of this album is bolstered by a production style which hearkens back to the days of Norway’s surging underground scene. Of course, it wouldn’t be Sabbath worship without killer riffs, and In the Shadow of Doom delivers there too with memorable and crushing passages which manage to stand out from the plethora of doom bands which have emerged in recent years. While it didn’t hit with me on all fronts, this album will certainly resonate with a number of metalheads clamoring for the ways of old.
1. The Wicked Dead
2. The Devil’s Share
3. Yet He Walks
4. Marching in the Shadow
5. Sign of Satanic Victory
6. Lair of Rats
7. As White as She Was Pale
8. Quis Est Iste Qui Venit
Total Playing Time: 42:53