Records of the Week with Jon and Ted #10
Each Friday, Editors Ted Nubel and Jon Rosenthal will share their picks for Records of the Week — not necessarily what's out this week, just whatever's on our mind or on our record players.
Our premiere of a Gargoyle track on Wednesday put me in the mood for some more "purple" doom — an extremely informal nickname for the weird, occult-themed doom metal aesthetic that Italy spawned starting in the late 1980s, perhaps most notably due to Death SS founding member Paul Chain. My binging led me to an album which, admittedly, is actually some of the least weird stuff Paul Chain has ever done: Alkahest, featuring Cathedral's Lee Dorrian providing vocals on the back half. Groovy traditional doom awaits, drenched in frightful atmosphere and unusual delights.
After getting his start in Death SS, Paul Chain went on to further experiment within the realms of doom metal, creating an iconic aesthetic and logo for his solo material. Under the Paul Chain moniker, he sings only in phonetics, eschewing any fully parseable language (except for the song titles). Your brain automatically tries to understand it, of course, because it can't fully discard it as being in another language, letting the slow and sinister riffs in Alkahest slip past mental defense and cause a hazy sort of disorientation.
Lee Dorrian's half is almost straightforward, then: although it features Dorrian at his most aggressively insane-sounding, he does sing in English. It's remarkable how much the switch in vocals changes the timbre of the album. The first half evokes thoughts of wandering half-alive in a ghostly mire, only to fully cross over to the realm of the angry dead with "Voyage to Hell."
Ghosts of Light
A new album? Surprising, I know, but Finnish dark metal project Autumnfall's approach actually dates back to the mid-90s. The spiritual successor to multi-instrumentalist Jussi Hänninen's Fall of the Leafe band (the Evanescent, Everfading and August Wernicke eras, specifically), Autumnfall is an exercise in musical nostalgia, Hänninen reflecting on his salad days as a dark metal musician before Fall of the Leafe took a dramatically gothic turn.
Now armed with a live drummer, Autumnfall's emotive mixture of early melodic death metal and black metal with folkish melodies and ethereal atmospheres feels as nostalgic as it truly is. Bringing back my own memories of hearing Fall of the Leafe for the first time as a young melodic death metal nerd living in suburban Texas, Ghosts of Light, the band's first proper album, is a living relic and a testament to Jussi Hänninen's steadfastness to a sound he revolutionized so long ago.