Semlah - _Semlah_
(Cyclone Empire, 2009)
by: Colleen Burton (8 out of 10)
Semlah, a lesser-known Swedish doom act, have offered their eponymous debut to the world. Newbies to the trad doom scene, having only scattered demos across the decade, their ambient full-length with a high-flown mise-en-scène is sounding pretty professional and indubitably benefiting from Count Raven's Eriksson on bass. Joleni's traditionally-styled clean vocals are sure to captivate old-school fans, straight through the choral, moaning breakdowns.

Wonderful Reverend Bizarre quavering vocals with heavy riffing sum up "Path of a Waning Moon". "Axioms of Life" borrows, perhaps not so much from drone doom, but just repetitive and minimal methods of droning bass with wailing vocals layered atop it, even with some room for solos, Doomsword-style. This sort of tendency continues through "Manifestations Obscure", and Joleni is selling it to us like his life depends on it, but "Perennial Movement II" is a great deal more introspective and overwrought with slow, acoustic guitars. The midsection of _Semlah_ can sit a little heavily, but "My Spirits Fail" helps to pick up the end of the album and segue into "Havoc", undoubtedly a high point and fantastic closer with Johnson's bewitchingly slow guitar sweeping into a booming chorus dominated by the bass before winding down into chants.

Aggressive yet lugubrious, _Semlah_ is essentially a fusion between the epic and the traditional, as evidenced by other small groups like Scald and Thunderstorm. Semlah probably tops this pile in terms of the quality of presentation and in keeping listeners' attention, but assuredly they are a bit too grandiloquent in their approach to be a groove-driven sort of doom. So how can they best be classed in their genre? While often structurally similar, Semlah can lack the more eclectic aspects of Solitude Aeternus and cannot even compare with the abstrusely epic material put forth by Isole. For those who like their doom with a side of rock, Semlah are styled on Solstice and Saint Vitus -- you'll find a great deal of time-honored habits here.

In spite of having released only one EP at the beginning of this decade, Semlah has been billed on several doom festivals, probably thanks to Eriksson milking his Count Raven fame. All in all, listeners may not be ravenously returning for more as they will have done for Black Sabbath and Candlemass, but for the moment it seems that Semlah can be tentatively hailed into the trad doom fold.


(article published 4/11/2009)

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