|Shape Of Despair
|Season Of Mist
"Illusion's Play" was my first funeral doom album. It had just been released at the time, and it was also my extreme sounds' baptism, the meeting was striking and enlightening and I had yet todiscover the even bigger greatness of both "Angel Of Distress" and "Shades Of…". Eleven years later, finally, a new chapter in the saga of one of the most inimitable and qualitatively superior bands in the history of metal came out from Helsinki. "Monotony Fields" came as a bolt from the blue: after years of silence, a couple of songs and one cover over more than a decade, the departure of the ex-Amorphis and Ajattara Pasi Koskinen; a series of signs that didn't really leave much hope for the future of the project. As a matter of fact, though, we found ourselves welcoming this year's summer with the latest Shape Of Despair's album.
After eleven years nothing has changed, apart from the voice behind the microphone: Henri Koivula (Throes Of Dawn) is the only actual "different" note on this work, with his abrasive growl and an almost soft clean voice. The new arrival delivered a solid performance that won't leave people wishing Koskinen was back in that sense, although the use of vocals in this album is even more sparse than on "Illusion's Play". Very few words fill the monotony fields, even less than usual; and yet, this time too everything feels extremely natural in Shape Of Despair's music, everything feels perfect, as if it couldn't have gone differently. The female vocals, as usual by Natalie Koskinen (or we should say Safrosskin), adds an ethereal halo to the already evocative instrumental lines, unmistakable trademark of the band. That "something more" the Finnish band has always had, perfectly knowing how to put melodies, keyboards, and synths together with their gloomy and massive riffing of funeral doom taste.
Here we won't find Thergothon's primeval square monoliths, or Ahab's oceanic abysses, not even the claustrophobic refinements typical of (some of) Skepticism's works, but instead melancholy, sensitivity, and the absolute intimacy of Shape Of Despair. They are the only band capable of harmonizing elements so different to the point of making them complementary and inseparable. The mix of guitars, keyboards, percussions, vocals, and the ambient background is a unique and perfect combination, a living system that goes on without needing anything less or more. The Finnish combo doesn't care to renovate, change, modify; their vision is so tangible that you could reach out and touch it, but also so indefinite that it can only be expressed through sound.
Loyal to themselves and so much different from everybody else, difficult but at the same time so easy to assimilate, Shape Of Despair can crawl under your skin. Fourth album, fourth masterpiece. Even if we had to wait for another eleven years for their next one, it would be worh it.