Bled White: New Novembers Doom Album Will Rule Your Sweet Little Face
Real soon, we’ll get to a discussion about how Bled White will rule your sweet little face, but first…
In the seven years since the ND came to my attention with The Novella Resevoir, mine has been a tentative fandom. Sure – songs like “Rain,” “Drown the Inland Mere” and “The Voice of Failure” rip most righteously, but there are several bright, discomforting warning threads that weave themselves through the album. Badass song titles like “Dominate the Human Strain” are betrayed by prosaic lyrical content arranged in simplistic verse-chorus patterns. Trios of snarling stompfests lead unfailingly to prettily strummed odes to family and friends. Reaching back to The Pale Haunt Departure yields some incredible music, but also uncovers “Swallowed by the Moon,” an absent parent’s growled apology to his death-confused progeny. There’s a lot of grasping talent to appreciate on early records Amid Its Hallowed Mirth and Of Sculptured Ivy and Stone Flowers, but a bit of floundering as well. It seemed that, while I would probably love to get drinks with band leader and vocalist Paul Kuhr over long talks about life’s important joys, I was much less inclined to listen to his metallic musings.
Now it’s 2014. Novembers Doom issued Into Night’s Requiem Infernal (oh, sure, now you find an apostrophe) in 2009 and Aphotic in 2011. Each release stirred my mild interest, so when this year’s Bled White came along, I took the bait. It’s one of the best listening choices I’ve made for months.
Everything about the band’s music seems to have grown, matured, in gnarled and surprising ways. Each song flows through a colorful dynamic range all its own, blossoming with ideas that cascade equally from Larry Roberts’s and Vito Marchese’s guitars, Kuhr’s constantly improving vocals and the masterful rhythms section. Quieter movements no longer feel simply pretty but are infected with melodic aberrations that betray a complex darkness. Guitar solos leap from the bed of churning chords to imbue songs like “The Grand Circle” and “Heartfelt” with a heroic sense of purpose. Kuhr’s approach seems altogether more downcast, a perfect new layer to his music, though we can hope that it doesn’t directly reflect any truly personal pain. (Hey, I don’t wish actual unhappiness on anybody, the sake of art be damned.)
“Just Breathe” edges again toward the bland anti-poetry of records past, but the menacing drums, piano accompaniment and the quality of Kuhr’s voice elevate the song past mere sentimentality. Part of me wished that closer “The Silent Dark” would writhe for nine minutes without payoff, the way its introductory passage indicates it might. Alas, this is Novembers Doom, who are nothing if not maddeningly consistent, and though the savage release first appears just a minute into the song, it is hardly unwelcome. If this is indeed Novembers Doom bled white, then by all means, bathe happily in that spent liquid.
Novembers Doom’s Bled White is out July 15 on The End. You can stream the entire album below, and pre-order it here.