There’s something gloriously pure about Welshmen The Drowning. They know what they like, that much you can tell, but at no point does their devotion to the doom/death genre tip over the edge into fanboy tribute wankery. On the contrary, after a decade in the game, at their best they are fit to be mentioned in the same breath as the heroes they so obviously revere.
Top of that list is obviously Paradise Lost. Throughout the whole of Senescent Signs the sonic ghosts of Nick Holmes, Gregor MacIntosh et al loom large as the band lay down the emotionally charged riff salvos like there’s no tomorrow. At One With the Dead absolutely reeks of pre- Icon PL, but as I mentioned earlier this is music absolutely fit to be mentioned in such august company. Guitarists Mike Hitchen and Jason Hodges are masters of their art both, interweaving together to produce moments of adamantine, stentorian beauty amongst all the shovel-headed bluster, whilst new vocalist Matt Small, whilst having the generic gravel-throated roar down pat also has enough personality to his voice to help the material rise to the very heights time and again.
House of the Tragic Poet adds a bit of My Dying Bride to the mix to keep the Wales-Yorkshire doom entente bubbling along nicely, throwing a little ethereal operatic vocal play into the pot, the clash of musical ideas being ably promoted by the beautifully crystalline production work (I’d love to give props to whoever produced Senescent Signs – they’ve done an absolutely first class job – but unfortunately the notes that accompany the album don’t provide any clues), while the excellent Never Rest is also right out of the top draw.
I know the whole point of this genre is stately, tortured emotional lament, but my one criticism of the material here is that it tends to the one paced. On the odd occasion things do pick up, as they do in the latter part of … Poet, or on the excellent Dawn of Sorrow (which has a hint of Swedish Gods Candlemass in the excellent soloing), excitement levels really move into the red as the double kick drums of Steve Hart start to work their magic. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not advocating wholesale speed freakery, obviously, but the shift up in tempo on these tracks in particular really works the oracle.
Easily the best band to emerge in this field since the glory days of the genre, The Drowning really do have a lot to offer the metal scene in 2016 – do yourself a favour and get yourself a dose of Senescent Signs as soon as possible. You won’t regret it.
Senescent Signs is out now on Casket Music