Unholy - _Gracefallen_
(Avantgarde Records, 1999)
by: Pedro Azevedo (9 out of 10)
Unholy have changed. The painfully slow, often repetitive, dirgeful music that they usually played before isn't quite as much so nowadays and the band has even incorporated a substantially greater amount of female vocals and keyboards than those found on _Rapture_ [CoC #31] (vocalist/keyboardist Veera Muhli is now a full-time member of the band). But if you're thinking that Unholy now play in the same league as The Gathering, you're very wrong. Unholy have changed, but only for the better, and this doesn't include a reduction in doom. The female vocals are as simultaneously soothing and sombre as on _Rapture_'s "For the Unknown One", which is what a lot of the music on _Gracefallen_ sounds closest to, while the keyboards only contribute further to the depressive metallic atmospheres Unholy create. As I mentioned above, this isn't as extremely slow, repetitive or dirgeful as before, though those adjectives are still valid for _Gracefallen_; but this -is- deeply doomy and remarkably, relentlessly crushing, thanks to the hugely heavy guitars and death vox that are also part of this painting of desolation. Just listen to "... Of Tragedy", "Daybreak" or the skull-pounding "When Truth Turns Its Head", for example -- I am nigh unable to pick highlights from _Gracefallen_'s first six songs, they all deserved to be mentioned. This is remarkably powerful music and truly superb doom metal. Unholy have basically succeeded in picking the best elements from _Rapture_, improved them and mixed them with new, -adequate- elements (something that many bands miserably fail at), reaching a much more consistent result than before with more going on in the music throughout the album's nearly 63 minutes as well. -This- is a fine example of "progression", a word nowadays spoken and/or written so frequently whenever a band changes for the less extreme (which is definitely not the case here), often almost regardless of the actual quality of the result. _Gracefallen_ is the best doom metal album to reach my ears since Evoken's outstanding _Embrace the Emptiness_ and the main reason why I'm not giving it a 10 out of 10 is that the album tends to lose a lot of its grip during the last three of its nine tracks -- mainly "Haoma", but "Seeker" and "Athene Noctua", although good, aren't quite as great as the rest, either. "Athene Noctua" provides an adequate, though somewhat excessively repetitive, end for the album. Still, this is definitely one of those albums that is excellent despite simultaneously being quite different from the norm, which ultimately makes it even better.

(article published 12/8/1999)

9/1/1998 P Azevedo Unholy: Tears From the Thousand Lakes
6/7/1998 P Azevedo 7 Unholy - Rapture
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