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Old April 26th, 2011, 01:56 PM   #1 (permalink)
Novembers Paul
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APHOTIC reviews

Review by: PhlegethonVeins on Ultimate Metal

Novembers Doom - Aphotic
The End Records - May 10th 2011
By Jason Wick



Artists face many obstacles throughout their careers that often determine how extensive and fruitful their time in the industry is. Even when you hold a veteran status, such as Novembers Doom does, a lot of battles remain to be won. One of the more difficult challenges for an established act to have success in is to achieve a sense of progression without alienating the current fan base; and this is something the men behind this band have had a good amount of success with throughout their 22 years of existence.

Eight full length albums within their career and Novembers Doom is still managing to switch things up while keeping a distinct atmosphere and feel in addition to improving on many technical fronts. With its aggressive and punchy approach Aphotic demonstrates that the creative engines within the band have a lot more fuel left in the tank. Quite frankly, it is difficult to come across a band that demonstrates this much will to improve so far into their career.

Rhythmically the act continues to improve upon assaulting the listener with hooks instead of simple rapid jabs in the heavier moments, as well as capitalizing on both anticipation and tension. These moments are still rounded out by mellow yet engaging passages which highlight Paul Kuhr’s growth on the clean vocal front. Despite the ‘bi-polar’ nature of Novembers Doom’s sound Aphotic does flow seamlessly throughout.

All in all progression is found on most fronts, and where it isn’t the band is just as strong as they previously stood. Precision and top notch song writing is capped off with engaging lyrics delivered in great form from Paul’s crushing fashion to guest appearances from both Anneke Van Giersbergen (The Gathering) and the legendary Dan Swanφ (Edge of Sanity, Nightingale). Swanφ is also responsible for the mixing of the album once again; continuing to be a great compliment to the work Chris Wisco has put in with the band in the studio.

Aphotic is yet another great release for this group out of Chicago. Mastering the art of melancholy, yet offering a sense of empowerment to the listener. This album will please the bands current fan base while garnering the attention of first time listeners, as well as those that have passed over their previous efforts.


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Old May 9th, 2011, 08:17 PM   #2 (permalink)
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About.com Rating: 4.5 Star
From Dan Marsicano


Novembers Doom made a slight mis-step with their last effort, Into Night's Requiem Infernal, but the band recovers with Aphotic. The constant urge to avoid the generic doom/death tag is prevalent, and one of the contributing factors to the quality of material. Compared to their previous record, there is a willingness to tread into controversial territory. It’s been a while since a Novembers Doom album was as immersive and full of surprises as Aphotic is.
The first big shock comes from opener “The Dark Host.” A sullen violin played by Earthen Grave’s Rachel Barton Pine sets up the feelings of despair and emptiness for the next seven minutes. The song transitions between a crippling mid-paced tempo and a soothing melodic breakdown, finishing in chaotic fashion. This type of dynamic is one of the staples of Novembers Doom’s sound, as heard in calmer affairs like closer “Shadow Play” and the two-part “Of Age And Origin.”

Nothing on Aphotic is as brutal as “Rain” or “Lazarus Regret,” though sections of “The Dark Host” and “Harvest Scythe” come close. That might disappoint those hoping to see the death metal side of the band exposed. It isn’t a big loss, as the best moments on the record are when the band explores melodies that seemed to be off-limits before. For long-time fans, it’s reassuring to know Paul Kuhr continues to have one of the best growls in the business. Unlike the band’s other efforts, his clean vocals are the attraction.

Kuhr’s clean vocals have been inconsistent in the past, but that is no issue on the record. His big impact is made on the magnificent ballad “What Could Have Been.” Raw and stripped to just acoustics, violin and piano, Kuhr puts his entire self into this one track. His back-and-forth with the angelic vocals of Anneke Van Giersbergen is fantastic, and when they go at it together, it’s pure bliss. This style has been done in the past; however, “What Could Have Been” has a poignant emotional outburst on a level not heard by the band before.

Past albums have focused on lyrical themes surrounding religion, water, and the changing of seasons. Aphotic tackles the darkness within us, the unsavory thoughts that sometimes dictate our lives. Light-heartedness has never been the band’s strong suit, and this go-around is no different. Disturbing lines like, “I will fill your soul with pain. I will make you pray for your death,” from “Buried” are the norm, which will please fans and creep out everybody else.

It’s hard not to recommend Aphotic to the metal masses. There are chances taken and risks that pay off. There may be some backlash to the calmer “What Could Have Been” and “Shadow Play,” but the band has been doing this kind of stuff for years; they just aren’t holding back anymore. That mentality does wonders in Novembers Doom composing one of finest albums of their career.

(released May 10, 2011 on The End Records)
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Old May 11th, 2011, 06:57 PM   #3 (permalink)
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In Metal We Trust
By Shawn Tuck - 10/10

Well, Once again 2011 has proved to be an amazing year for Metal. And this album is further proof that this band has done nothing but grow over the years. I've been a fan of this band since I heard "The Pale Haunt Departure" for the first time. Which up until this point was my favorite album by the band.

Aphotic is business as usual for the band, yet at the same time they have expanded their flow and even got a bit "Darker" Now "The Pale Haunt Departure" had a very dark theme to it. But this album just feels more Visceral, Violent. It's just beautiful brutality.

Tracks like, Harvest Scythe, Of Age And Origin - Part 1 & 2, and Six Sides. Prove that this band constantly evolves. No two tracks on this album have the same sound but they all have a dark theme to them.

Once again the vocalist absolutely outdoes himself with the lyrical content. I'd like to say he is a Metal Poet with the lyrics he writes. They remain dark throughout the album but they retain a sense of bliss. Even if it's blissful murder. The outro on "Buried" Is also a highlight.

Here's a good example of that, This is a small piece of the lyrics from Harvest Scythe.

I am the fear you have at night
I haunt the dreams of those who know
You’re afraid because you know I’m right
For this night, I will feed on your eyes

The guitars on this album are played with skill and precision, Vito and Larry prove they can write both Brutal and Beautiful guitar melodies. I would almost even dare to say this is them at their very best. From the Acoustic melodies on "Shadow Play" to the fucking Brutal riffing on "Of Age and Origin pt1" and the amazing solo in "Buried" They show they can play pretty much any style with fluidity and grace. Hats off to them.

The drummer has also really come into his own on this album. Loving everything he's doing behind the kit on this album. His work on the track "Shadow Play" really stands out on this album.

All in all this is an amazing album. And I might even dare to say this is Novembers Doom at their very best.

Zero cons with this album. This album is pretty much perfect. As we expect from Novembers Doom.


10/10

I'm tired of giving out 10's this year. I need an album to completely smash.
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Old May 13th, 2011, 02:09 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Review by: Mike

Known as one of the hardest working bands in metal, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Novembers Doom is still progressing as strongly as ever with their new release, Aphotic. Eight albums into their career and still as strong as ever, Novembers Doom has put together another thrill ride of progressive metal that fails to disappoint by any stretch.

I was not the biggest fan of their last effort, Into Night’s Requiem Infernal, but a lot of their fans felt let down by that one as well. I have a feeling that Aphotic will be a welcome release from Novembers Doom. With the normal crushing vocals and riffs, the songs never stop coming with fury and anger while maintaining the melodies that have been a staple of Novembers Doom’s sound for years.

The album begins with their longest track, The Dark Host, which comes at you pretty hard, but with a twist. A sullen violin played by Earthen Grave’s Rachel Barton Pine set a nice tone for this track. The next track, Harvest Scythe, is easily one of my favorite tunes from the album. The vocal melodies, whether crushing or melodic, are intertwined nicely and form a well-written song. Vocalist Paul Kuhr still can bring it with the best of them as far as the growling vocals go. His clean vocals were hit or miss previously, but that seems like a problem that is long gone after this release.

The track that I was looking forward to most on Aphotic was What Could Have Been. I knew that ex-Gathering vocalist Anneke Van Giersbergen would be on this track, but did not know what to expect. For anyone who has never heard Anneke Van Giersbergen, you are doing yourself a serious misservice. Her voice is angelic and is no different on What Could Have Been. This track ended up being a glorious ballad with Kuhr and Van Giersbergen sharing vocal duties. The song defines what an acoustic ballad should sound link in my opinion. The beauty of this track is amazing and the sense of having both vocalists in such a raw style was an excellent decision.

All in all, I would feel confident in recommending Aphotic to any Novembers Doom fan as well as any metal fan. This release has so many intertwined styles that I know that metal fans will rejoice with it.
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Old May 13th, 2011, 11:45 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Revolver
Review by:Josh Hart - 3.5/5

In some ways, the music of Novembers Doom is guided by the band’s desire to not be labeled as doom metal. Their last album, 2009′s Into Night’s Requiem Infernal, saw the band wading into entirely new waters, bringing in elements of stoner rock and psychedelic music, much to the chagrin of fans.

Eighth full-length, Aphotic, if not a return to form, is certainly the most consistent record the band has made in years. That’s not to say it’s boring or formulaic, though. There are enough twists and turns on this record to keep the listener interested all the way through. Those expecting to see the death-metal side of Novembers Doom may be a bit disappointed, although there are some pleasingly heavy moments on “The Dark Host” and “Harvester Scythe.”

A pleasant surprise is “What Could Have Been,” an almost-ballad that features a haunting guest vocal appearance by ex-Gathering vocalist Anneke Van Giersbergen. Aphotic may not bring fans back who left the band on Requiem, but those who stuck around will get to experience a group finally coming into their own. JOSH HART
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Old May 16th, 2011, 03:23 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Chronicles of Chaos
Review by: Aaron McKay (8 out of 10)

The meaning of "aphotic" translates as extremely little to the total absence of light. Be that as it may, the newest release for Chicago's titans, Novembers Doom, has more than its fair share of bright spots to illuminate the sometimes overly murky metal scene.

This latest resplendent effort marks the eighth full-length release in the weighty back catalog of musical achievements from the Midwest five piece death-doomsters. This go-around _Aphotic_ explores an airier, translucent aspect maybe not as pronounced as on some their previous albums. This is due in no small part to the vocal talents of The Gathering's Anneke van Giersbergen. Also, couple that particular addition with violin child prodigy Rachel Barton Pine, and her stringed instrument abilities whereby creating a luminous new album that takes on a chillingly lucent aura. Counterbalancing those supplementary nuisances, Dan Swanφ also climbed out from behind the _Aphotic_ mixing board to render a throaty contribution on "Of Age and Origin".

Eight tracks make up _Aphotic_. Passages like "Six Sides", with its suggestively riffy and rhythmic moving effortlessly into "Shadow Play" like so much white water rapids into a clear frosty twilight pool; a definitively unambiguous indication Novembers Doom is now and always has been invested in their root origin signature sound. Epic!

From a certain voluminous yawning expanse so typical of Novembers Doom's sound ("Buried") to the current challenging avant-garde edginess thus recently contrived on _Aphotic_ ("What Could Have Been"), Novembers Doom demonstrates a profound unwillingness to be overshadowed in any way traveling their chosen metal music path. This new release may reference an absence of light, but the Herculean Novembers Doom validate they will never be left in the dark. As Dylan Thomas suitably prophesied, "Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night."
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 02:23 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Review by: Erik Thomas - 8.6 out of 10


Here’s something a little unexpected after The Novella Reservoir and Into Night's Requiem Infernal…

After 2 albums that saw the band enter more direct, aggressive and pure death metal pastures, Chicago’s Novembers Doom has appeared to return a little more to the doom/death of their first 4 albums. Not a full reversal mind you, as the band is still more aggressive than anything on Of Sculptured Ivy and Stone Flowers or The Knowing, but there are more somber strains and clean vocals, reminding more of the band’s earlier releases.

Maybe due to side project These Are They fulfilling the band's more aggressive desires and being a more appropriate outlet, November’s Doom has released a CD much more befitting of their respected, evocative moniker, and despite the album's title, there is some light tucked away in here. And something special and beautiful has grown in the darkness.

After a My Dying Bride electric violin opening (shades of the Symphonaire Infernus EP?), “Dark Host” actually provides the album's sternest death metal moments akin to the last two releases. But even within the burly blasts and Paul Kuhr’s distinctly enunciated growls, there are tangible threads of a more despondent mood, and the chorus is the first of many of Kuhr’s heartfelt clean purrs that arise on virtually all the albums tracks.

But from there on, the album is much more restrained, melancholic and refined. That's not to say that it’s any worse than the last two albums, and I for one enjoyed the band's more tenacious forays, but to be honest, this tone and mood just seems…..right. “Harvest Scythe” initially hints at yet more burly death metal, but the song ends up being a steady, mostly clean song trot with a catchy little chorus. But it's “Burial” and beyond where the band really starts to deliver their earlier doom vibe with haunting acoustics and a slow and somber but still menacing march, with Kuhr really showing his range with some very powerful growls and soft, emotive croons.

Then the real cementing track of Novembers Doom's return to their past is the ballad “What Could have Been” featuring Anneke van Giersbergen of The Gathering fame singing with Kuhr atop a backdrop of nothing but delicate acoustics and a violin. Of course, such ballads have always been part of Novembers Doom's repertoire, even on their last two heavier releases (i.e. “The Fifth Day of March” and "Twilight of Innocence”), but this isn’t just a ballad amid an album of metal, it’s a detailed glimpse of what Novembers Doom actually does best and has done best for over 15 years and 8 albums now.

As if to offset the prior track's beauty, Dan Swano (who mixed and mastered the album) lends his voice to Part One of the two-part “Of Age and Origin”. The aptly named “A Violent Day” has a mostly stern chug; it's still a steady, largely cleanly-sung number dripping with doomy structures and layering. As expected, Part Two, “A Day of Joy” counter-balances Part One with more soft acoustics and some simply killer crooning from Kuhr.

“Six Sides” delivers a great and sturdy opening riff, reminiscent of My Dying Bride’s best mid-era moments, but again even with a death metal gloss over the superbly produced guitars and drums, the underlying current of sadness and despondency is simply much more palpable than on the last two records with the doom and the death interplaying perfectly rather than the death metal shift being forced in our face after 12 years of doom.

“Shadow Play” closes the album by perfectly cementing the balance of the band's past and present, with a first half of soft acoustics and singing. But about halfway through, there’s a brooding build in the distance that climaxes into a huge death metal riff and sumptuous solo that closes the album with superbly placed emotion and weight.

As expected the performances are top-notch, and the production is simply huge, though I do get the impression fellow scribe and drummer Sasha Horn is a bit tethered by the reduction in pure death metal, as you can feel him straining to just let loose -- but that’s why he has These Are They. But it shows how talented and skilled the core of the band is to be able to not simply stick with a style, but continually morph and subtly change their style while still remaining one of the US’s most underrated but consistent acts.
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Old June 5th, 2011, 01:50 PM   #8 (permalink)
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LOUD
Rating: 84%
Reviewed by Sam Radojcin

When it comes to the death/doom genre, European bands like Katatonia, Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Swallow the Sun come to mind. But in the heartland of America, Chicago’s Novembers Doom have been proudly representing the genre for 20+ years and with their eighth and latest release, Aphotic, they show that they are more than capable of creating some first class material.

"The Dark Host" jumps out of nowhere with a dark, brooding, yet dynamic introduction to proceedings. The ballsy, chunky riffs paired with a slinking bassline and frantic drumwork paints a blackened musical picture and Paul Kuhr’s vocals give life to that vision as he combines his deep bellow with a clean, innocent vocal pattern during the middle section that could be seen as voices of the subject’s battling consciences.

Instead of a 50+ minute metal barrage, Aphotic ebbs and flows. There are the traditional heavy, bludgeoning cuts that Novembers Doom are known and loved for, like "The Dark Host", "Harvest Scythe", the two part mini-epic "Of Age and Origin" (featuring metal icon Dan Swanφ) and the addictively captivating "Six Sides" that is a journey in itelf with some brutal riffs from Vito Marchese and Larry Roberts. The band also embraces melodic influences mixed with their traditional sound in "Buried" and "Shadow Play" that sit well against the full-on cuts.

In the middle of the album, they stray from their signature brutality, creating something quite different and outside the box in "What Could Have Been", an Opeth-ish composition powered by acoustic guitars and a guest appearance from The Gathering's Anneke Van Giersbergen. It is as haunting as their heavier material but with a chilling and delicate touch.

Despite not having the fanbase of their European counterparts, Novembers Doom work insanely hard and have delivered a solid release in Aphotic should garner them a share of their contemporaries’ followings while appeasing their own dedicated legion of fans.
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Old June 6th, 2011, 02:32 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Review by Dan Dominiak

Novembers Doom unleashes their 8th full-length album Aphotic to the masses via The End Records, making for one of their most memorable bodies of work to date. With a natural progression of their dark and doomy roots, Aphotic continues to expound upon their varied musical influences with a fine collection of catchy tracks. Thrashing riffage, melodic interlude, and sudden blast beats make “The Dark Host” a total mind fuck. It perfectly showcases the bands ability to come out with all guns drawn while successfully intertwining their many shades of musical form. Another Aphotic highlight, “Of Age and Origin - Part 1 and 2,” is a uniquely divided epic. Balanced by heavy hook-laden guitar grooves in Part 1, Part 2 drifts into an ethereal bliss of vocal and musical textures. Their first official video, “What Could Have Been,” is a depressingly beautiful ballad that features the grace of Anneke Van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering) on vocals and Rachel Barton Pine’s (Earthen Grave) elegant violin. The return of Chris Wisco and Dan Swano at the helm of engineering, production, mixing, and mastering seems quite essential to Aphotic. Here, they further develop the Novembers Doom sound, as previously explored with their involvement with their prior releases Into Night’s Requiem Infernal and The Novella Reservoir. The musicianship within Novembers Doom has also reached an all time peak. With Sasha Horn on drums and Mike Feldman on bass, this is their tightest knit rhythm section in their 20-year longevity. The guitar playing of Larry Roberts and Vito Marchese is consistently brutal and melodic. In particular, Roberts’s leads are exceptionally tasteful in mellower passages, with hints of David Gilmour at times. Whether adding extreme viciousness or gorgeous timbre, the vocals of Paul Kuhr are always delivered with decipherable clarity. Novembers Doom successfully bleeds genres within Aphotic, making it a highly recommended listen for all metal heads. Be sure to explore their back catalog of releases and check out the video for “What Could Have Been.”
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Old June 6th, 2011, 03:07 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Review By Clint Listing

Novembers Doom is a band very near and dear to my heart as we were label mates for while and I call Paul and Larry Friends even though its been yrs since Ive seen them last. With there 8 album the have just floored me with something I was not ready for a doom/death album of the level of My Dying Bride's " Turn loose the swans" or Anathema's " Silent Enigma" Nov Doom has been moving to a more Prog Death sound over the years for me and though there love of Opeth and Dan Swano are very much in tact this is the Darkest and most doom filled ride I've have from them in 4 albums.. The guitars are low and massive with great acoustic and melodies. Paul's voices is spot on . The Drums and bass are the backbone they need to be if Aphotic is to succeed. This album is just down right a monster with one mission to make the listener remember why November Doom is one of the best bands on The End records a label that seems to have lost its metal heart over the last few years. Aphotic is a must listen metallic journey...
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Old June 8th, 2011, 02:40 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Don't Count on it Reviews
Review by maskofgojira
8.5/10

I have to say that when it comes to doom metal, Novembers Doom has been a band that has only gotten better with each album. Even with the shift towards a more progressive death metal in latter albums, they have retained a high level of quality that is not often matched by groups in doom metal, consistency wise anyway. This new album has some guest appearances and is apparently a bit more in line with their past doom sound as well.

The sound of this album shouldn't come as a surprise to fans of the bands last few albums, it's more mid-paced death metal that's plenty adventurous while still being catchy and melodic. I'd say that this album, while some tracks do go for the doomier sound of their earlier material, hear Buried or Six Sides, this album also has some of their fastest material yet, Harvest Scythe, where the band seem to tread into almost pure melodic death metal territory, ala Omnium Gatherum or early Opeth. I still find that the songwriting on here is top notch, with every song on here being very memorable and catchy, but I don't think it tops their last album, in my opinion, 2009's "Into Night's Requiem Infernal." I think the use of more softer passages on this album really does bring a better sense of progression to their sound, it also allows the heavier moments to sound a lot heavier as well.

In my opinion, Paul Kuhr is one of the best death growlers out there right now. He sounds not only unique, but also very powerful and clear in what he says, unlike a lot of growlers; and I also find his singing voice fantastic as well, being more of a baritone singer, his lower register really captures the darker emotions better than a lot of higher vocalists who try and pull of being dark or sad. Guest vocalist include the always stunning Anneke Van Giersbergen on the acoustic ballad What Could Have Been and the great Dan Swanφ giving some growls on Of Age and Origin I: A Violent Day. Of the two, Anneke definitely has the better presence on here, her in particular being a great parallel to Kuhr's singing on their duet.

This is another notch in the wall for a great band, not that I'm surprised, like I said above, these guys are great at releasing good albums consistently. Definitely some of their best material on here, but also some stuff that's just average. Definitely check this out if you're in the market for some high quality progressive doomy death metal.

Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Buried, Of Age and Origin II: A Day of Joy, Shadow Play
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Old June 20th, 2011, 04:26 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Sonic Abuse
BY PHIL – JUNE 19, 2011
10/10 (If the site gave numbers)


The first thing that you notice about the new November’s Doom album is that it comes clad in some stunning artwork courtesy of Tommy Genest whose distinctive work graces not only the cover but also the inlay as well, providing the booklet with a grim look that is entirely in keeping with the music on offer. The next thing to bear in mind before you’ve even heard a note is that expectations for this album were high, not only because it is the band’s eight release in an illustrious career, but also due to the fact that the legendary Dan Swano was behind the mixing desk and even went so far as to provide vocals for ‘of age and origin’, while ex-Gathering/Devin Townsend singer Anneke Van Giersbergen also appears on one track with her distinctive and stunning voice. In short ‘Aphotic’ has a weight of expectation attached to it but it takes all of about forty seconds of the first track to appreciate that the band have gone above and beyond those expectations to create an epic, beautiful and often thrilling journey into their own personal heart of darkness.

Opening with the epic ‘the dark host’, ‘Aphotic’ starts out with a single echoing violin in the dark which is suddenly and unexpectedly torn to shreds by a gigantic guitar riff that is funeral slow and weightier than ‘the Black Album’. As soon as you’ve got used to the pace, the real track begins and it is a brutal slice of death metal that rages at you with an unexpected ferocity and virtuosity. Larry and Vito’s dual guitars sound simply monstrous, while the rhythm section of Mike and Sasha keep things lively and the band’s propulsive attack is topped off by Paul Kuhr’s ungodly rasp which simply dominates the track especially when he switches from brutal deathly growl to stunning clean vocals without so much as blinking. Then, as abruptly as the band appeared to smash everything to pieces the track takes a vaguely Opeth-direction and like the calm at the heart of the storm, the music takes a quietly melancholic turn. It’s an awes-inspiring opening and instantly aligns the band towards the top of the genre. As the violence creeps back on and the song ends in a barrage of kick drums and frenzied riffs you wonder why more bands can’t be this shockingly inventive and contemplate what might be coming next after such an epic scene setter.

‘Harvest scythe’ is the next track up and it is no less impressive than the previous cut. With a monumental riff at its heart, it’s an adrenalin soaked masterpiece that couples Paul’s astounding lyrics with a rhythmic barrage of epic proportions. The production, as across the whole album, is absolutely top-notch with every instrument afforded exceptional clarity and power and the tracks surge out of the speakers with a rare vitality that does both band and producer full credit. A shorter track than the massive ‘the dark host’, ‘Harvest scythe’ lasts a brief four minutes and then you’re into the trudging might of ‘buried’ which alternates between bludgeoning guitar and the barest of verses that sees everything stripped back to the bare essentials allowing Paul’s bile-soaked vocal performance to take centre-stage. It is, both musically and lyrically, unnerving stuff but delivered with such powerful conviction and precision that you don’t doubt the bloody intent implicit in the lyrics.

In the midst of the chaos, where blood had previously flowed with abandon, beauty suddenly springs forth for the fourth track, the elegant, elegiac ‘what could have been’ which is compositionally the exact middle ground between Opeth’s ‘Damnation’ and The Gathering’s ‘mandylion’ thanks to the stunning picked guitar work and the appearance of Anneke Van Giersbergen who duets with Paul to stunning effect. It’s a gentle, lovely track that haunts the memory long after the album has run its course. Of course, as in real life, such beauty is only fleeting and the band unleash the exceptional ‘of age and origin (part 1: a violent day)’ which features a rare appearance from Dan Swano on vocals as well as a guitar riff that could flatten an elephant. It truly is quite astonishingly heavy, intelligently written and beautifully played, especially when a harmonised briefly pierces the gloom towards the song’s climax and we’re left trying to piece our shattered skull back together just in time for the beautiful ‘of age and origin (part 2: A day of joy)’. It is a stunning two part epic that marks the darkest heart of the album and clearly highlights the fact that November’s Doom are a band who not so much deserve as demand your attention.

‘Six sides’ is the penultimate track on this astonishing record and it is Sasha Horn who comes out on top with what can only be described as the drum sound of the Gods. Remember when you first heard Meshuggah? That’s how insanely huge the drums sound here while Paul heads off on a pure My Dying Bride tangent unleashing a clean tone that is deeply sombre and bereft of joy and the perfect foil to his usual embittered growl. Meanwhile the riff that powers the track is a vicious little beast that aims to flatten you against the wall with its sonic shock and awe approach. It is also here that you realise just how much bassist Mike Feldman brings to the mix with his beautifully fluid work always subtle and yet perfectly balancing the sonic weight of the main riff, his prodigious talent deserves recognition and he may be the unsung hero of the band. Final track ‘Shadow play’ brings the record to a gentle, atmospheric close and, at only eight tracks, it is clear that the band know not to overplay their hand leaving you desperate for more even as they’ve had you shaking and sweating in the palm of their hand for the whole of the previous hour.

Quite what happened to November’s Doom for the recording of ‘Aphotic’ is not clear, but always an excellent band they have upped their game by a considerable way for this record. This is not meant as a sleight on their previous material, it is simply that ‘Aphotic’ is a timeless, epic masterpiece that, if there is any justice in this world, will be proclaimed in the same breath as Opeth’s ‘Watershed’ and My Dying Bride’s ‘turn loose the swans’. Everything from the monstrous production sound of Dan Swano to the beautifully orchestrated guest appearances just works and the song-writing skills the band have deployed are second to none. Gut wrenchingly heavy in places, stunningly beautiful in others, November’s doom know the value of imbuing their work with a light and shade and the result is a stunningly dynamic piece of work that is utterly flawless. If we gave marks this would be a clear candidate for ten out of ten or whatever arbitrary score we may choose to assign, but in the final analysis this is an essential release for fans of haunting, progressive-tinged extreme metal and in a day where I’ve already been stunned by the immense Dirge’ it is no mean feat to find a record which is as impressive albeit in a rather different musical vein. This is an essential, timeless, stunning record that will sit proudly in my collection and which I am sure to still be playing and finding new elements to admire in years to come. Simply and unarguably outstanding.
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Old June 21st, 2011, 12:58 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Review By: Scott Alisoglu
9/10

The definition of a "class act", Chicago's NOVEMBERS DOOM hit stride with "The Pale Haunt Departure" and continued rolling right on through "Into Night's Requiem Infernal", picking up a more aggressive streak to go with their melancholic death 'n doom. Always concerned first with ensuring that each track is crafted for lasting impact and that nary a note is wasted, on "Aphotic" the approach has resulted in the most captivating, well rounded, and lyrically penetrating album of NOVEMBERS DOOM's career.

It's not so much that NOVEMBERS DOOM brings anything groundbreaking in creating its compelling compositions. Rather, it is the skill with which the band takes various elements of the familiar and weaves them into a style all its own. On "Aphotic" that meticulous method has resulted in a bountiful harvest of the beautiful and beastly. As is often the "formula" for success on a band's pinnacle release, "Aphotic" sees NOVEMBERS DOOM playing to its strengths by mixing those elements in ways complementary and effectively contrasting. The death metal aggression is immediate, the melancholia is at once serene and soul crushing, and the compositional approach as a whole is dynamic, even epic, yet never verbose. The booklet and artwork, as usual, is very well assembled and integral to the effort.

Indeed, everything works together to form not a collection of songs, but an emotional journey of ebbs and flows. And you just don't pick a song and press play; you buckle up, start at the first track and take the entire trip each and every time. On opener "The Dark Host" Rachel Barton Pine's violin strikes a sorrowful tone as the song soon builds to a vintage NOVEMBERS DOOM up-tempo melo-death slam, reprieves granted only for KATATONIA-esque sadness. It is on "Harvest Scythe", perhaps the most quintessential NOVEMBERS DOOM to date, on which the balancing act reaches new heights and achieves perfection in its main melody; it is one of many tracks proving the album to be the eve versatile Paul Kuhr's greatest vocal achievement. Both "Buried" and "Six Sides" feature moments where Kuhr's delivery generally reminds of NEVERMORE's Warrel Dane at his most emotional (circa "Dead Heart in a Dead World"). The big guy's performance on the former at once chills to the bone and shocks with its intense rage, as lines like "I will make you pray for your death" and "rope around my neck…just one push from the edge of life" might suggest.

Yet there is so much more on this rapturous musical journey into the darkest depths of the psyche and the molten center of the soul. Included is a heartfelt acoustic gem called "What Could have Been", featuring the gentle guest vocals of Anneke Van Giersbergen (THE GATHERING). Part 1 ("A Violent Day") and Part 2 ("A Day of Joy") of "Of Age and Origin" showcases NOVEMBERS DOOM's mastery of nuance and subtle atmospherics, assisted by Ben Johnson's light keyboard lines and the guest vocals of Dan Swanφ, who also mixed and mastered "Aphotic". The album closes in equally epic form with "Shadow Play", a track that builds and builds until a "Children of the Grave" style pattern erupts into a giant's stomp that shakes the earth. Failure to mention that "Aphotic" is enhanced to monumental proportions by the power and intricacy of guitarists Larry Roberts and Vito Marchese, drummer Sasha Horn, and bassist Mike Feldman would be nothing short of criminal.

It would be a bastardization of truth to say that NOVEMBERS DOOM has ever gotten it wrong. Accuracy would however reign supreme in recognizing that Chi-Town's finest never got it this right. NOVEMBERS DOOM kills it on "Aphotic".
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Old June 21st, 2011, 01:03 PM   #14 (permalink)
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The Offering
Review Author: Praxilla

If you are taking note of the obscure album title and cover art of Novembers Doom’s eighth and current release “Aphotic” (meaning “without light” but also signifying “growth in the absence of light”), you might think you have the sound of this release pinned down to a generic science. But as their iconic status attests, with every release since they were established in 1989 Novembers Doom continue to experiment with their innovative blend of death metal inflected with bittersweet melodies.

“Aphotic” is an eclectic blend of melodic death metal, replete with a lyrical content which seems to usher in thoughts not only about a sense of hopelessness and despair in the real world, but also an internal struggle between the self and the mind. Frontman Paul Kuhr utilizes a dual interplay of both angst-ridden guttural and sorrow-filled clean passages, taking us on a journey of anger and sadness.

“The Dark Host” opens the album and sets the mood for “Aphotic” with its sad, mournful violins. As quickly as these strings have tuned, the tempo changes abruptly into an atmosphere of doom in turn swiftly changes into melancholic passages reminiscent of Opeth.

In terms of vocal power, “Harvest Scythe” is the most expressive, offering mostly clean vocals throughout coupled with stellar riffs.

The third song “Buried,” on the other hand, commences with an almost melodically thunderous rumbling of drums followed closely by a guttural vox.

“What Could Have Been,” lyrically the most personal track on the album, is a duet between Paul Kuhr and Anneke Van Giersbergen of Agua De Annique (ex-The Gathering). It is a richly layered soulful yet sombre piece laden with acoustic guitars, and calls to mind feelings of regret in hindsight.

“Aphotic” is a stellar release from the Chicago death metallers, offering attentiveness to musical detail in every nook and cranny and further expanding upon their signature melancholy meets metal sound.
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Old June 22nd, 2011, 03:59 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Alternative Matter
Review by Myron

Gathered in 1989 in the Chicago area, this death/doom metal machine has been going strong ever since. Aphotic is the group’s eighth full-length release on The End Records. Despite large number of line-up changes Paul Kuhr remains a strong constant and a dynamic lyricist. The latest of these changes reunites the band with drummer Sasha Horn in 2008 and Mike Feldman coming on late in 2009 as their new bassist. Can this mix of old and new members mesh with the constant force that is Kuhr?

Aphotic opens on eerie strings of a violin but builds quickly on thunderous riffs that become accentuated vocally by the best growler in death metal, Paul Kuhr. This opening track, “The Dark Host”, is nothing short of haunting. The melodic interlude complimented by gentle guitars do nothing short of build a sense of true fear as the storm returns and we are reminded why this album is titled Aphotic, and why we should be very afraid. Aphotic is a term used to describe something that can grow in the absence of light, and the lyrics sure tell this story and the music is so complimentary we are left to ask what is growing in the blackness enveloping us. “Harvest Scythe”, easily one of the best tracks on this release, both musically and lyrically perfectly compliments the opening track. The chorus in and of itself builds such a sense of foreboding and despair to this release. The weave of melodic and brutal in this song is nothing short of glorious. In short these first two tracks demonstrate that the team of Feldman and Horn provide the perfect canvas for Kuhr, Roberts, and Marchese to paint upon.

“Of Age and Origin” parts 1 and 2 collectively come in at a weighty eight minutes. Every minute better than the last, beat after beat, growl after growl, riff after riff this song soldiers through what can only be described as metal carnage. After the music is said and done on this track with carnage in their blood Novembers Doom explains to us what is kept in the box. Six Sides tells the story of something growing in a box presumably without light. The musical interpretation of the lyrics or the lyrical interpretation of the music is pure genius. The alpha to omega concept in this song easily makes this one of the best tracks on the album. The vocal weaving into the threads of the music have formed track of pure raw emotion. With the alpha being “she once told me the box is where it lives” carrying through to the omega of “I once told her the box is where it died” and the path in-between is the perfect weave of guitars, beat, and vocal intonation. Lyrically this is one of the best releases of the year and the sycophantic music gives life to a truly great beast of an album.

Kuhr and company seem to get better and better and Apotic is no exception. Novembers Doom has given us a darkly haunting metal masterpiece this time out. Both the music and lyrics weave a truly haunting tapestry of metal genius. Especially clever is the mix of fast and brutal with slow and melodic. This was done in all the right places giving the ebb and flow of tides of raw emotion. There is certainly something growing in the absence of light and it is the metal filled soul known as Novembers Doom.
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Old June 23rd, 2011, 12:59 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Review by: Szakk Scorn
10/10

Novembers Doom is one of the earliest U.S Doom/Death acts alongside likes of Agalloch, Evoken, Acid Bath. Being one of the most consistent bands in the genre, still I think they are quite underrated. As a big fan of the band, I still consider their ’09 effort ‘Into Night’s Requiem Infernal’ pretty much ordinary compared to all of their earlier stuffs till ‘The Novella Reservoir’. They attempted a more outright Death Metal album, which according to me went quite flat compared to the evocative features for which the band is known for. But Novembers Doom is back this year and as good as ever.

Novembers Doom approached a more Progressive sound with this album similar to bands such as Agalloch and Novembre which can be heard in more or less all of their earlier records but not as precise as this one.

The opening track ‘The Dark Host’ starts off with a bizarre violin tune, played by Rachel Barton Pine of Earthen Grave. Then the song tends towards fast forward thrashy riffing with heavy technical drumming and both growled & clean vocals. Paul Kuhr’s ethereal clean vocals during the acoustic interlude passage is just indescribable in mere words. ‘Harvest Scythe’ is a more generic guitar driven heavy track. Then comes my most favourite track , ‘Buried’ which begins with a slow acoustic verse and spans heavy and melodic passages throughout. Guitarist Larry Roberts has played one of the most extensive and formidable solos of all time in this song in my opinion.

In brief ‘What Could Have Been’ is effing celestial, enchanting acoustic melodies and ethereal vocals of both Paul and female vocalist Anneke Giersbergen are splendid in one word. Two interconnected tracks, ‘Of Age And Origin – Part 1: A Violent Day’ and ‘Of Age And Origin – Part 2: A Day Of Joy’ display two different scenarios, simply from the titles its quite distinct that one of those scenarios is Violent and the other is Joyous. ‘Six Sides’ is pretty much similar to ‘Harvest Scythe’, a heavier riff and double bass oriented composition. ‘Shadow Play’ reminded me of Opeth a lot. It begins with slow clean melody and soothing vocals and continues till the halfway, then shapes up a more progressive and heavy form with a crushing guitar solo near closing moments. Truly cant be a more perfect concluding track than this.

Overall, there is nothing really to complaint about the album, it is absolutely flawless from every perspective. Paul Kuhr’s vocals again proved to be one of the most strongest attributes of the band. Another true gem by Novembers Doom as well as another real strong contender for the album of the year after Moonsorrow’s release in my opinion.
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Old June 23rd, 2011, 07:45 PM   #17 (permalink)
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November's Doom are a band from Chicago, Illinoisthat has a 20 year long history with s musical style that I would describe as being melodic and atmospheric doom/death metal and this is a review of their 2011 album "Apothic" which was released by The End Records.

Drums range from slow to midpaced drumming with some ocassional fast playing and blast beats, while the violins bring a very dark, tragic and atmospheric sound to the music, as for the bass playing it has a very strong and powerful tone with some heavy riffing being thrown in.

Rhythm guitars range from slow, to midpaced doom/death metal riffing with some ocassional fast riffs and melodic parts, while the lead guitars are very dark and melodic sounding guitar solos, as for the accoustic guitars they bring a very dark and progressive feel to the music.

Vocals are mostly deep death metal growls that have somewhat of a black metal edge to them and a great amount of clean singing male and female vocals, while the lyrics cover dark emotions, doom and symbolism, as for the production it has a very heavy, professional and heavy sound to it.

In my opinion this is another great album from November's Doom and if you where a fan of their previous recordongs, you will not be dissapointed. RECEMMONDED TRACKS INCLUDE "The Dead Host" "What Could Have Been" and "Six Sides". RECEMMONDED BUY.
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Old June 27th, 2011, 02:36 PM   #18 (permalink)
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MTUK Metal Zine
Review by: Pete Woods

So not waiting until winter sets in to release this one then? Looking out the window as I set out to review the eighth full length album from these Chicagoan heavyweights it is anything but gorgeous mid-summer weather. Whilst I blame all the dribbling retards flocking like sheep to Glastonbury festival I can smugly sit here in the dry listening to a quality release far better than anything they will be hearing all weekend. I have dipped into Novembers Doom and their back catalogue at various stages of their 12 year career and liked a lot of what I have heard. Recently 2005 album ‘The Pale Haunt Departure’ really got beneath my skin but last album into ‘Night's Requiem Infernal,’ seemed to have a certain spark missing. Well I can assure you that spark is back with this new one and of everything I have heard ‘Aphotic’ is without a doubt the best material I have encountered from the group.

In case you were wondering (as I in my quest for knowledge) just what the album title means it apparently “is the portion of a lake or ocean where there is little or no sunlight.” So it’s the perfect description to go with the music and hopefully those of you who are not marine biologists may have learned something with this review too.

I have to mention the cover and the inside booklet artwork here, it is excellent and goes incredibly well with the musical narrative. I am reminded a fair bit of some sort of Stephen King novella and the great front cover by Tommy Genest and the booklet art by Jason Hicks should really be applauded.

A subtle splash of strings entrances from the start of ‘The Dark Host’ and gives way to the full musical weight as it plummets in. You are instantly drenched in atmosphere and the hefty drum bombast has you banging your head. All that is missing is the hoary vocals from Paul Kuhr which gruffly growl in completing the picture. Melody is incredibly strong and it is not long before you are overtaken and a host to its grasp, willing or not! Clean vocals are also used and are perfectly pitched, adding a beseeching clamour to things. I am at times, as with the acoustic break on this one, reminded of Opeth but that is not a complaint at all as they hit the dark moonlit romance of the number perfectly. Darkness and light are counterpoised, when this rages it does so with anger but there are moments that are quite beautiful too. ‘Harvest Scythe’ as the title suggests is downright vicious and is as good as any melodic death metal song I have ever heard. The angry and clean vocals joust around each other and the harmonies are brilliantly realised and precisely delivered. This is one song I really want to witness live, it completely flattens you on album so must be really powerful on stage. ‘Buried’ has the almighty roar declaring “I will cover you with soil,” sending a shiver down the spine. The lyrics are great, reminding me of a rape / revenge scenario and this is the revenge served without a shred of mercy. A lush guitar solo is the one bit of relief.

I mentioned beauty and it is nearly all saved for the ballad that is ‘What Could Have Been’ a fragile story of lost love vocalised with the gorgeous tones of guest singer Anneke Van Giersbergen. There is nothing else to say here apart from ‘heart melts.’ Back to the aggressive, dark side served in two parts we have ‘Of Age And Origin’ represented by both ‘A Violent Day’ and the lighter ‘Day Of Joy’ Amidst the solid drum rolls and chugging bass grooves we also encounter Dan Swanφ adding to the vocal growls and you don’t get a much better seal of approval than that. There is not an ounce of fat needing to be shaved here, every moment and every song counts. ‘Six Sides’ has the clean vocals reminding a little of Aaron Stainthorpe and Kuhr has the necessary passion to carry things off sincerely. The way he flows from clean to gruff is quite remarkable too. Finally we arrive at last song ‘Shadow Play’ and despite the fact the album is 50 minutes long I am still left hungering for more. This last one is a ponderous and sorrowful number where daylight fades and darkness sets in. Just as you think it is going to fizzle out the drums take up a tattoo and the anger broods back in as we race towards a storm laden conclusion, excellent!

If you like music with lots of atmosphere, superior melody, structured song writing and death and atmospheric doom in any context you need ‘Aphotic.’ This is a sure-fire contender for my top album list of the year and really needs to be checked out.
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Old June 28th, 2011, 10:05 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Review By Natalie Zed

Sound is an imprecise science, an every-changing alchemy, and November’s Doom have been in the laboratory lately. Into Night’s Requiem Infernal and The Novella Reservoir were definitely experiments in adding a more distilled, intense death metal sound, aggressive and violent, red in tooth and claw. On earlier albums, the band experimented with a heavier, more lugubrious doom sound. This can be tricky: too much doom struggles and strangles under its own weight, too heavy to display nimbleness. By contrast, death metal can be too mindlessly aggressive, opaque, all rending limb from limb. November’s Doom avoids both of these fates with Aphotic. This is an album in balance. The energy level is high, sacrificing no agility for muscle and no volume for tenderness. Whatever the precise distillation of elements, November’s Doom have managed to create something golden. My favourite two tracks on the album are “Burial,” which mixes just the right dose of doom into a vicious, grinding march of a song, with thunderous drums, and “What Could Have Been,” featuring ex-the Gathering singer Anneke Van Giersbergen and Paul Kuhr’s rich, clean vocals against pure acoustic strings. The songs vary greatly, in terms of intensity, but the tone, the theme, is consistently strong enough to unite all the elements into a cohesive whole. The word “aphotic” means lacking light, specifically outside of the range of sunlight, like the abyssal depths of the ocean floor. But there is light here, a strange, phosphorescent light — this album shines. There is no compromise on any of the elements that November’s Doom incorporate into Aphotic. The death metal vocals are soaked in tar and blood, while the acoustic strings are pure and plaintive. None of the individual elements are watered down — they are so skilfully combined that everything fits, every bit of heaviness and ugliness elevating every bit of tenderness and light.
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Old July 10th, 2011, 07:13 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Metalholic Magazine
Review by James Baysinger
8.3/10


After the Chicago doom trust released their last two albums, The Novella Reservoir and Into Night’s Requiem Infernal, some fans were beginning to doubt the last half of the band’s name. Certainly no one is complaining about the psychedelic and stoner metal experimentation the boys were playing with. It’s just, we were missing that sonic despondency Novembers Doom is so noted for. Fortunately the guys have made their eighth effort, Aphotic, an album with a feel that harks back to their earlier records, but perhaps a touch more aggressive. Aphotic means “having no light” and this album lives up to the name. Dark and dreary, it gives you the sense there is no light left anywhere in the world. Paul Kuhr has incredible deep growls and he shows them off to perfection on the opening track, “The Dark Host.” The writing on this album is outstanding and the lyrics to “The Dark Host” are some of the best. Kuhr’s death growls meld perfectly with the dark lyrics:

“This is the law, the law of the land
Where Angels earn their keep.
The dark light, the dark light curse.
We cheated our way to midnight.”

The second track, “Harvest Scythe” is not as doomy as the rest of the album but it is heavy and brutal, with a good mix of clean vocals and growls, a catchy chorus, angry lyrics, a crushing riff and pounding drums. “Buried” brings you back to the doom with harsh lyrics and a killer solo.

“What Could Have Been” is absolutely amazing. An acoustic ballad with piano and violin that may not appeal to most metalheads, but I find it to be a pleasant addition on this album. After a 90 second acoustic intro, Kuhr takes the lead on the vocals but gives way to Anneke Van Giersbergen, former vocalist of The Gathering. She sings the majority of the vocals and her performance is simply incredible. Her haunting, angelic voice smothers you with sadness yet this song is so beautiful you just can’t stop listening to it. Rachel Barton Pine’s violin work is ethereal.

After listening to this emotional song you may want to turn off the CD and quietly revel in the bleakness, but if you’re like me you’re ready to get back to the metal. “Of Age And Origin – Part 1: A Violent Day” brings you back in good fashion. As the name suggests it’s full of angry, violent lyrics and has a decent solo thrown in. Dan Swanφ (Nightingale, Edge of Sanity, Bloodbath), who mixed Aphotic, turns in a superb guest vocal appearance here. “Of Age And Origin – Part 2: A Day Of Joy” Is the Yang to Part 1′s Yin, a mostly acoustic based piece, both dreary and melancholy.
The album ends with a couple of good, lengthy, dark and doomy tracks, “Six Sides” and “Shadow Play.” The former grabs you by the throat with a dominating riff line, and its death metal tendrils wrap around your lungs sucking you into the dark void. The latter is a darkly elemental auditory rendering of where the band came from and who they are now.

Aphotic brings Novembers Doom back to their roots a bit, without surrendering the growth they’ve made over the last couple of records. The album is superbly produced. The dark lyrics are well-written and Kuhr’s vocals are better than ever. The emotion runs high as is to be expected. One of their best albums yet, absolutely a masterpiece!
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Old July 21st, 2011, 03:00 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Eternal Terror
Review by Matt Coe

Imagine this reviewer neglecting to take the opportunity to see this IL doom quintet 20 minutes from his hometown when Novembers Doom headlined day two of the Metal Thursday fifth anniversary celebration in Worcester, Massachusetts. Especially in light of “Aphotic”, the latest studio record from this unique, forward thinking doom band with progressive and death nuances. Paul Kuhr exudes pain, sorrow, and anger through his natural death vocal proclivity and equally eerie, hypnotic clean voice - using both to extreme measures in one of the album’s highlights “Buried” as you can picture his words coming to life, ‘the rope around my neck’ visually imagining a life ending.

Anneke Van Giersbergen performs a duet with Paul on the acoustic-laden, softer “What Could Have Been” that should appease fans of both singers, another Novembers Doom track that musically really takes the listener into a different territory of aural surroundings. Where Novembers Doom excel is the tightness of their doom riffs, the energy displayed between bass, guitars and drums that just form this low, crushing sound that you can’t help but be moved by - coming to a head on the two part “Of Age And Origin” saga, with “A Violent Day” and “A Day Of Joy” taking on Solitude Aeturnus and Black Sabbath and wrapping them around in a killer Sasha Horn drum tempo that isn’t afraid to have double bass as a power emphasis.

The closing song “Shadow Play” contains some military snare strains and exotic, ethereal guitars from Larry Roberts and Vito Marchese before concluding with a “Children Of The Grave” like riff montage that certainly leaves you floored with metal power. As an eighth studio album “Aphotic” continues the fine style Novembers Doom have always employed and will not disappoint their long-standing following, and hopefully gain a few new converts as they are a powerhouse for the American movement.
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Old September 16th, 2011, 04:25 AM   #22 (permalink)
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Review by Bato
84/100


This is something special, an extra-ordinary release from Chicago’s Novembers Doom. Their latest offering is an eight-tracker entitled Aphotic and what a brilliant release it is. Slightly more aggressive than its predecessor, but still very much with this recognizable doom and dark sound.

The album has this doom vibe, with haunting acoustic parts, slow paced musicianship, catchy choruses, superb riffing and wide range vocals. Speaking of vocals, those are very diverse, ranging from clean and soft ones towards more powerful growling and emotive ones. All of the songs are perfectly composed and extremely well-balanced, offering a mixture of soft ballads, depressive and melancholic songs and heavier ones too.

My favourite songs are the “Harvest Scythe”, being a steady and mainly clean song with a catchy little chorus and interesting lyrics. Another equally good song is “What Could Have Been” where one and only Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gathering) is a guest-vocalist. However, this is not everything as Aphotic is simply packed with one pearl after another, and another surprise comes in the song “Of Age and Origin” where mighty Dan Swanφ contributes with the vocals. Apart from this little contribution Dan is also responsible for the mixing and mastering of the album, and I must say; the final result is brilliant.

Aphotic is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year; portraying the band that is self-confident and highly skilled. Although Novembers Doom is in a league of its own, I would esp. recommend this album for fans of My Dying Bride, Saturnus, Type O Negative, Ashen Mortality and Paradise Lost.
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Old November 4th, 2011, 03:03 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Review by Chris Latta


Novembers Doom's eight studio album is progressive death/doom done right.
While Novembers Doom can be an easy band to underrate for some, there is no denying that they are one of the oldest and biggest American death/doom bands that the scene has to offer. Originally formed in 1989, they have persevered through that time and have consistently delivered a multitude of acclaimed releases despite also going through a long series of lineup switches.

This is the group’s eighth studio album and has been hyped as having a more progressive sound in comparison to the more death metal-oriented style of the last few releases. In addition, it features more guest appearances than any other Novembers Doom album before it but is also the last effort to feature drummer Sasha Horn.

Black Is The Soul Of A Dying Sun
The band will probably hate me for being the ten millionth person to make the following comparison, but Novembers Doom has always come off as being something of an American Opeth. In addition to having been formed around the same time frame, both bands use complex song structures, low tempos, melancholic autumn imagery, and a ton of harsh/clean contrasts in between.

Even before Opeth ultimately decided to embrace their prog-jazz rock calling, Novembers Doom managed to successfully stand out. Their songs have always been shorter, their imagery darker, their riffs heavier, and the transitions much smoother. In short, both bands are good but Novembers Doom have always been the better songwriters and arguably more creative overall.

But what really makes the band distinct is the performance of vocalist Paul Kuhr, their sole original member since 1989. Often going between a clear but powerful growl and a baritone reminiscent of Paradise Lost’s Nick Holmes, he seems to opt for the clean vocals a bit more than usual. There are a few moments where he goes into unintentional comedy (Sorry, the growls during the verses of “Buried” are so prominent, it’s rather amusing) but his contributions are quite impressive.

Fortunately, the rest of the band doesn’t slouch. The guitars have a dark sound that is aided by the clear production and go through a mix of murky riffs and somber melodies. The drums stand out on the album’s heavier moments and get plenty of opportunities to pummel the listener.

Also worth noting are the numerous guest appearances on the album. The touches of keyboards and violin are great but the cameos by vocal legends Dan Swano and Anneke Van Giersbergen are the most memorable. The former delivers some strong growls on the first part of “Of Age and Origin” while the latter effectively helps the band channel their beauty-and-the-beast roots on “What Could Have Been.”

Deeper Scars Than Any Wound Could Be
As expected by a project with clearly contrasting sides to their sound, the songwriting is varied and each song manages to sound distinct. “The Dark Host” provides a good summary for how the album will be as it features heavy chugging during the verses, a softer bridge segment, and a cleanly sung chorus with an oddly catchy hook.

But while “The Dark Host” is a memorable opener, “Harvest Scythe” is easily the album’s catchiest track. While its overall structure is similar to that of “The Dark Host” with its growled verses and clean choruses, it manages to stand out thanks to its interesting use of upbeat groove riffs and more elaborate hooks. Yeah, I can’t emphasize how weird it is to use the words “catchy” and “hook” in the context of death metal…

After the first two tracks, the album generally seems to stick with more somber, slower material with the heaviness still coming into play on occasion. “Buried” is an enjoyable track despite its somewhat disjointed contrasts and the closing “Shadow Play” features some particularly smooth harmonizing during its first half.

But the track that should have everyone talking is “What Could Have Been,” a gorgeous ballad that makes extensive use of the violin and a duet between Kuhr and Giersbergen. While the pairing would suggest a desperate grab at the old goth metal formula, the execution is quite emotional with the choruses tugging at one’s heartstrings. As far as I’m concerned, this is easily the most touching ballad that 2011 has to offer.

Show Yourself and Prove I Am Not Mad
As a listener whose previous experience with Novembers Doom is mostly limited to 2005’s The Pale Haunt Departure, this does manage to be an incredibly strong album and just might be one of the better that’s come out this year. However, it is also rather easy to overlook and its second half isn’t quite as emotionally powerful as the first.

There might be an earlier Novembers Doom release that’s worth looking into but this is one that shouldn’t be overlooked. If anything, I would highly recommend to seasoned death/doom listeners and the disgruntled Opeth fans that haven’t already gotten into them…
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