Midwestern trio Grief Collector sure know how to kick off a tune! In fact, if this review was just of the opening thirty seconds of each track then this recording would already be album of the year, or maybe even the century, given the impact of the introductory riffs employed by guitarist Matt Johnson all over the album! Problem is – can they back this up on the remainder of each song?

Surely yes is the answer to that particular conundrum, as Grief Collector ram down the agony on each and every one o’ the nine tracks featured on En Delerium. Although this album will be labelled a doom release, thanks majorly to the presence of near-legendary vocalist Robert Lowe (from Tyrant and Solitude Aeturnus amongst others, for those of you not in the know), for the main it’s a pretty straight forward heavy metal album, kept lean from some of the more unwanted trappings that seem to have attached themselves to the ‘doom’ label in recent years. If you like yer metal traditional, but with those eerie, claustrophobic overtones so associated with Gods like Black Sabbath, then this might well be your jam for a little while to come.

At it’s best – the second track Wintersick might be where it all comes together best – you won’t hear better performances this year. Johnson plays bass on the recording as well as guitars, and the way he locks in with drummer Brad Miller sets the bedrock from whence everything else flows. The best example of this might be Our Poisonous Ways, which really showcases Miller at his best as he covers every inch of his kit again and again. The switch up mid-song from heads-down metal to stately doom is pretty neat too.

Best of all, Lowe sings within himself throughout the record, resisting any temptation to oversing the songs. He lets his two compadres fill in the gaps in the music, keeping to doing what he does best and this approach heightens the impact of his vocal talent very well indeed. The songs hit hard enough as they are – there’s no need for vocal gymnastics, and when he does occasionally stretch out of his mid range – on The Letting Go, for instance, it adds value to the song rather than overloading it.

Overall, if you’re an old school metal head, especially an old school metal head who likes bands like Pentagram, Candlemass or Trouble, there’s nothing on this record that you won’t want to listen to time and again. And that’s a pretty rare occurrence these days in my experience!

En Delirium
releases on June 11th.