I don’t know what it is about doom metal, but there seems to be a much higher concentration of women playing it when compared to other subgenres. And they usually aren’t content with conforming to the typical stereotype of girls in metal, where there’s a pretty female singer in a corset to distract you from the fact that the rest of the band’s a bunch of ugly dudes in sweaty tees. Several luminaries of modern doom have axe-slinging girls like Boris’ Wata or Electric Wizard’s Liz Buckingham who can play riffs just as heavy as their male counterparts. There’s even a drummer or two to be found, most notably in the sludgetastic skin-pounding of Chiyo Nukaga from Noothgrush and Graves at Sea. And sometimes you’ll even have a doom band with an all-female lineup, like the American Grave or the Japanese Gallhammer, which you don’t normally see in other areas of metal outside of the obvious Girlschool. But the thing that really separates groups like that from Switzerland’s ShEver, an all-female group of five ritual-minded doomers, is that Grave and Gallhammer know how to write a song that won’t put the listener to sleep.
On their second LP, Rituals, ShEver seem to be trying to lull the listener into a ritualistic trance. Doom metal is a genre far more conducive to this than almost any other, as it centers around repetition, slow tempos, and a usually-occultist vibe. But what better doom groups have that ShEver don’t is a sense of atmospherics, and the idea that occasional change-ups are vital when attempting to engross the listener. To their credit, ShEver certainly makes an effort – a harmonized pair of female vocals singing along with the main riff’s melody while another busts out a wicked Thorr’s Hammer growl can certainly draw you in well. The problem is that these moments are few and far between, being eclipsed by glacial-paced riffs that endlessly repeat with no sense of change or progression. There’s no guitar solos to break up the tedium, no bass twiddlings or off-the-cuff screams from the lead singer – for fuck’s sake, man, there aren’t even drum fills. The ending half of “Delerio” goes on far too long than it needs to, with a decidedly un-catchy riff that repeats over and over and over, bludgeoning the listener into a numbed state – it’s not so much a ritualistic trance, but more of the feeling you get from watching the clock in ninth-period English class. While most songs on Rituals aren’t as horrifically repetitive and literally painful to listen to as “(You Are) The Mirror,” they instead exist in that nadir of tedious mediocrity where you could skip around throughout the song with wild abandon and not miss anything. They don’t go anywhere at all, instead plodding around in a massive circle through a dead and barren landscape devoid of engrossment and entertainment.
The worst sin one can commit in music is certainly not being offensive, because even that will get you somewhere. The worst thing you can do is to be mediocre and completely unremarkable, turning no heads and catching no ears. That’s why Nickelback is so universally loathed, because they don’t so much shake the boat as limply splash around like a three-year-old in a kiddie pool. As much as it pains me to say it, ShEver needs to spend some serious time in the confessional for Rituals. There’s not much I can find to recommend this album, and your efforts would best be concentrated elsewhere if you’re looking for decent doom, fem-made or no.