Stemming from Massachusetts, the quartet of Conclave are dropping their sophomore album with this LP, following up on an advance single for “Haggard” back in February. As the cover suggests, this is a pretty doom-soaked affair, embracing the theatricality and melodrama of retro metal, without compromising it with ‘ironic’ detachment. Splitting about forty-five minutes of doom metal across five tracks, the band keeps things long and heavy, while condensing operations somewhat from the nine-track, hour-plus MO of their debut album, Sins of the Elders. Another difference between the two is that they’ve since traded guitarist Terry Savastano out for Chris Giguere, so established fans will have that quality of comparison to pick over when going back and forth in their collection.
First of the five songs on this album is the title track, opening with a resonant, massive-sounding bass riff, light guitar accents coaxing some forward momentum into the dolorous sound. Once the vocals boom into being, the song really takes off, cranking lead guitar wailing against the slow base rhythms. The riffs are kept jumbo-sized, thoroughly relished by the band as they crunch their way through the song, with an atmosphere closer to traditional doom than the stoner strain, though there is a bit of foggy haze in the soundwaves.
As “Death Blows Cold” takes over, the tempo rises, along with the prominence of the drums. A chilly bit of synth-sounding drone helps the title come alive, while the band dips into death metal grindage for the song’s main substance. The squealing abrasion of the lead guitar is a fun trip, and the death metal vibes carry on, with a bit less thrash, as “Haggard” picks up. It’s a solid song, and an understandable pick for the single to build hype for the album. Nicely balancing harsh rage with melancholy doom weight, the song cruises along on firm song-writing and commanding progressions. However, it’s the following song, “Thrown on Spikes”, which takes my pick as personal favorite of the album. Starting off as “Dawn of Days” did, focusing on a big bass riff, the song eventually morphs into a crushing mammoth stomp in the vein of WarHorse.
“Suicide Funeral” makes for a fitting last track, with a groaning harmony between guitars and bass as they plug along at a dirge-like pace. It’s also the longest of the album’s songs, coming in at thirteen minutes and change, and the band rises to the occasion with some wonderfully poignant harmonies in the climax. Though it ends in a trail-off, it’s still a satisfying finish to the album, giving things something of a reflective bent, which contrasts nicely with the aggressive edges to the earlier songs. Taken as a whole, the album has a few rough spots, but it performs so well in the moment-to-moment level as to take care of most of those issues. For those interested in large-scale, well-constructed doom metal, it’s more than worth a listen.