Album Title: Reflections
Label: Profound Lore
Date of Release: 14 February 2020
I’ve said on these very pages many times that I’m not the most enormous fan of doom metal. And yet, I have all of the Paradise Lost back catalogue including their early doom/death days. I utterly adore the likes of Daylight Dies, Swallow The Sun and most recently, I have fallen in love with Sorcerer, whose most recent album, ‘The Crowning Of The Fire King’ was one of my favourite releases of 2017. And it seems like the very best releases so far in 2020 have had a doom element.
And now, as January draws to a close, I am being seduced most expertly by another doom metal band by the name of Godthrymm. But a closer look at the bio of the band and it isn’t really very surprising at all because this UK-based band was formed in 2017 by no other than Hamish Glencross, who has plied his trade over the years with My Dying Bride, Vallenfyre and helped shape Solstice as well.
However, it wasn’t the clientele that drew me in to checking out this album. It was my dear old friend, the front cover. I was scrolling through my Haulix account one day recently and something about it drew my eye. As I’ve banged on many times about in the past, artwork is very important to me and my album choices, so Godthrymm and artist Brian D’Agosta get a big tick in the box for their dark, mysterious front cover. Without it, I may never have ventured further.
Back to the line-up though, and Godthrymm is now a trio formed of vocalist and guitarist Glencross alongside drummer Shaun Taylor-Steels and bassist Bob Crolla, although this debut album, ‘Reflections’ was apparently written and created as a duo before Crolla joined. And whilst I have never spoken to Glencross and I’ve seen no commentary on the subject, it seems a sure bet that the main aim of Godthrymm’s debut album is to recreate the ‘classic’ Peaceville doom era of the 1990s. Salivating yet? Read on…
The doom metal delivered by Godthrymm on ‘Reflections’ is the kind of music that really hits my sweet spot, at least where this genre is concerned. It is that winning combination of crushingly heavy, mournful and atmospheric, containing ample melody to keep the songs firmly in my mind and ensuring that I keep coming back time and again for repeated listens.
Recorded and mixed by Nathan Bailey, what’s quite remarkable about ‘Reflections’ also is the way in which it sounds dirty and gritty as arguably doom metal should, but it’s also extremely muscular and powerful. In so doing, it does hark back to the sound of the 90s but retains an edge that means that it remains relevant in the modern age; this is one of those records that fits both eras perfectly, something that should be applauded by all concerned.
For a trio (or duo to be more precise), the depth of sound and the quality of the music is rather incredible. I’ve heard six-piece bands make less of an impact than this and this is testament to the experience and skill that Glencross and Taylor-Steels possess. Music of this nature is no accident; they knew exactly what they were doing and have pulled it off expertly.
Aside from the monolithic riffing, which could flatten small towns, what stands out for me is the lead guitar work from Glencross, which conveys such feeling and emotion, not to mention a sense of foreboding darkness and fragile beauty atop such an unforgiving foundation.
The opening track is entitled ‘Monsters Lurk Herein’ and after a simple, quiet guitar intro that hints at the song’s central melody to come, my head is blown clean off my shoulders by a huge, ponderous, lumbering doom riff before a haunting and sombre lead guitar enters the fray, adding to the melodies that, like the monster, lurk therein. The lead is reminiscent of early Paradise Lost in its tone but whilst there are echoes of yesteryear and other bands within the composition, Godthrymm have enough of their own identity to avoid falling into the trap of being a clone or a mere tribute to the past; I’d prefer to refer to Godthrymm as a nostalgic band, resurrecting the glories of the past, whilst putting their own stamp on the music. To top off the song, Glencross’ vocals are impassioned and mellifluous despite carrying a sense of menace and a gruff, gravely edge – the ideal accompaniment to the bludgeoning, yet engaging instrumentation that surrounds him.
Those same striking lead guitar embellishments usher in ‘Among The Exalted’ and reappear at points within the track. They are allowed to run a little wilder too, offering more flamboyance within a structure that varies the pace from sedate to something altogether more energetic, with the drums almost skipping along at a healthy lick at one stage towards the end. A nod has to go to the bass playing which is heard more within this song and sounds deliciously thick and rumbling.
Without doubt though, the best song on the album is the exquisite ‘We Are The Dead’. It shows an even more melodic side to Godthrymm whilst keeping the doom elements well and truly intact, along with the bludgeoning heaviness. I’d go so far as to say that it’s a doom metal anthem. The vocals are arguably the best anywhere on the record, thanks to the impassioned delivery that allows the clean voice to soar over the music. And there’s one particularly stunning melody that appears a couple of times that’s led by a deliberately dirty-sounding lead guitar; it is sublime in its ability to sound beautiful and depraved at the same time. This is surely a contender for my ‘song of the year’, even at this early stage.
‘Reflections’ is a consistent beast too, because there isn’t a poor song to be heard anywhere amongst the eight tracks. ‘The Light Of You’ introduces a greater sense of light and shade, with minimalist moments where it is just Glencross’ voice to be heard with only the gentle tap of a drum or quiet picked guitar melody for company. ‘Cursed Of The Many’ then pushes the aforementioned ‘We Are The Dead’ close thanks to some memorable and evocative melodies, whilst the instrumental closer, ‘Chasmic Chaos’ is a suitably epic way to round things out.
Yes there’s an argument to say that ‘Reflections’ is just that – a reflection of the past and as such, offers nothing new to the doom metal table. But sometimes, nostalgia is necessary, to remind us of what once was. And, in any case, Godthrymm have indeed delivered something new for us to enjoy: eight incredible new songs that refresh our memories as to how good the doom genre can be, even in 2020, two decades after the heady 90s disappeared into the fog of distant memory. Even if you have only the most casual interest in doom metal, I urge you to check out this beast of an album. I can’t see you being disappointed at all.
The Score of Much Metal: 93%
Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: