Shallow Rivers - _The Leaden Ghost_
(BadMoodMan Music, 2015)
by: Chaim Drishner (8.5 out of 10)
What's that?! A totally different Shallow Rivers meet the listener with _The Leaden Ghost_, so different from the band that had performed on their previous and impressive _Nihil Euphoria_ that you would find it extremely hard to even register the fact this is indeed the very same band; when we say this album sees a totally different band, we mean -totally- different.

Shallow Rivers are a couple of guys from Revelations of Rain, and the question that immediately pops up is why can't Revelations of Rain write and play such good music? The guys are obviously capable of providing us with some powerful, provocative and thrilling metal -- that's apparent from listening to both debut and sophomore -- so where has this talent been hiding while the musicians played under the Revelations of Rain moniker?

Anyway, forget about the relatively lightweight, user-friendly, semi-gothic, quasi-romantic doom/death the band have created on their _Nihil Euphoria_ debut album; although well written and executed, exhibiting some engaging melodies -- that album is nothing compared to _The Leaden Ghost_ in terms of anger, hatred and heaviness.

So instead of going nowhere, wallowing in their own stylistic prison, Shallow Rivers have decided to evolve and move on, not unlike some of their label-mates who have reinvented themselves in quite extreme a manner (Reido, Septic Mind, Narrow House and The Morningside, to name a few), switching sides, increasing the intensity of their anger, delving deeper into the art of metal, reinventing themselves and eventually -- sounding like an utterly different, new, improved, more bestial an entity than before.

Shallow Rivers now offer us a dark and atmospheric death metal of the slower, tamer kind in terms of velocity, but much increasing their vitriol; the compositions feel like home and the ambiance is heavy on dark emotions and vehemence, with barely a hint of romanticism or gothica still noticed; the album sounds fresh and huge, and instead of being centered around melody -- the quintessential factor of the band's debut album -- this time the recording targets bitter and undying hatred as its main sonic theme.

The riffs are definitely death metal, and so is the power and anger the songs radiate with. The sound is low and thundering, and the song writing is one part traditional and one part adventurous. Some tracks, like the opening "Of Silent Winds that Whistle Death", exhibit a strong old-school approach not unlike what other bands not strictly associated with doom but rather with death metal were performing a decade or two ago, only now Shallow Rivers offer their own interpretation of the style, making it way more interesting and atmospheric than most of the genuine old-schoolers out there.

The vocals of Vladimir Andreev are unreal; they are dark and guttural, with that deep punch exhibited by prodigies such as Septic Flesh, but in this case Mr. Andreev's vocals are surprisingly intelligible; he also experiments with spoken verses as well as with other, softer as well as harsher approaches to utilizing the human vocal chords. They all fit so well together, they become one of this album's quintessential pillars, proving that vocals are a crucial factor where hard-hitting music is concerned, the torch-bearers for the music to follow (so basically, fuck instrumental metal!).

Based on the tragic poem "The Wreck of the Hesperos" by the 19th century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, _The Leaden Ghost_ is a massive work both lyrically and musically, incorporating well written, long poetic lyrics (in English) -- some of which are inspiring and epic -- and bitter music that has tragedy written all over its sad frequencies.

_The Leaden Ghost_ takes the listener to the point where the basics of the doom/death style were born, deep in the bowels of slow and atmospheric death metal of old, where melody and brutality reigned in equal measures and where being traditional did not mean, automatically, being boring and faceless. This album has many angles to show you, some to be only revealed in future listening sessions; fine-tuned death/doom that has been brought to the level of being pure art. Buy this album.


(article published 3/3/2015)

3/2/2014 C Drishner 7.5 Shallow Rivers - Nihil Euphoria
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