The Porcelain Throne: Novembers Doom
We are back on the throne again, this time with a submission from the great Xan. I, for one, am very grateful for his decision to cover this band, as I have been procrastinating giving them a listen for far too long. If you are like me, follow his advice and give them a close listen.
Novembers Doom has always been the death-doom band that never really got the recognition that bands like Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, and Anathema got for their contributions to the genre. An element that has stayed with this band is consistency. Every album has continued the style they established in their second album, and has improved with age. I first heard Novembers Doom when I purchased a copy of Amid Its Hallowed Mirth from a flea market. Upon playing the CD in my car, I discovered the world of beauty, tragedy, love, and loss that is Novembers Doom. Starting as a death/thrash band called Laceration in 1989, the band quickly changed names and slowed down their music. Typical Novembers Doom songs will feature fast portions with vocalist Paul Kuhr’s trademark roar and brief interludes of atmospheric acoustic guitar, sometimes during which Kuhr will use his excellent clean vocals. I imagine that this band will be a band that people will either love or find to be boring.
Amid Its Hallow Mirth (1995)
Novembers Doom’s first album is the only album that sounds noticeably different than the rest. Kuhr uses his harsh vocals almost exclusively, only punctuated by Cathy Jo Hejna’s operatic singing as an ambient feature. The guitar tone is thick and hits like a mammoth. The opening electric guitar riff in “Amor of the Harp” raises the hairs on my arms. A present element that the band would build on in later albums was an atmospheric sound, particularly, a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere. A track that represents the feeling of this is “Dance of the Leaves”, a three minute track with Hejna’s vocals permeating a windy landscape. Standout tracks on this album include “Amor of the Harp”, “Chorus of Jasmine”, and “Tears of the Beautiful”.
Of Sculptured Ivy and Stone Flowers (1999), The Knowing (2000), and To Welcome the Fade (2002)
The modern sound of Novembers Doom comes into play with Of Sculptured Ivy and Stone Flowers. Building upon the atmosphere present in Amid Its Hallowed Mirth, the band adds elements of gothic metal into the mix and combines Kuhr’s cleans with his harsh vocals. Of Sculptured Ivy and Stone Flowers has a very sorrowful sound to it. Each song sounds as if Kuhr is crying out over lost loved ones. My favorite track from this album is “Suffer the Red Dream”. The Knowing continues building atmosphere. Whereas the last album was sorrowful, this album sounds melancholic and crestfallen. Kuhr uses his cleans in ever-increasing quantities, and this is probably the most atmospheric of all their albums. An element introduced in this album that stays on future releases is an ebb and flow effect. Albums will usually start with a bang and then slow down only to speed up again. “Shadows of Light” is my favorite track from this album. To Welcome the Fade marks that bands step up in the songwriting department. Atmosphere is laid on thick and heaviness returns with full force. I find myself able to remember the riffs from this album with much more ease than the last two albums. Other than the speed and heaviness increase, this album sounds very similar to the previous two. “Broken” is my favorite track from this album.
The Pale Haunt Departure (2005) and The Novella Reservoir (2007)
The Pale Haunt Departure and The Novella Reservoir are often considered the best albums by Novembers Doom, and personally, are my favorites. The opening riff of “The Pale Haunt Departure” is instantly encapsulating. Kuhr’s vocals are greatly improved. His harsh vocals are feral and his cleans are perfectly bleak. Themes of this album are sorrow, wistfulness, nostalgia, and mourning. “Autumn Reflection” is an excellent example of the Novembers Doom’s style, combining slow and mournful cleans in the verse with a fast chorus. “Through a Child’s Eye” is the best example from the album for featuring Kuhr’s cleans as they are layered with perfect density. This songwriting in this album is great and it flows from one song to the next with perfect seamlessness. The Novella Reservoir opens up with the pumping anthem “Rain” which is very heavy and lyrically interesting. A common theme present on this album is water, as it is referenced in three back-to-back songs: “Rain”, “The Novella Reservoir”, and “Drown the Inland Mere”. “Twilight Innocence” is a very calm and atmospherically serene masterpiece about a father treasuring his daughter. This album continues the path laid out in The Pale Haunt Departure of pumping fast paced growling interlaced with slow, sleepy, dreamy interludes. With both of these albums, Novembers Doom’s songwriting improved immensely along with the ability to intermingle death, doom, and gothic metal. The atmosphere and themes of these albums are truly a joy to explore. I would suggest both of these albums to people who have never listened to Novembers Doom.
Into Night’s Requiem Infernal (2009), Aphotic (2011), and Bled White (2014)
Into Night’s Requiem Infernal is probably Novembers Doom’s weakest album. The album itself is good, but I don’t come away remembering many of the songs. Ultimately, it really lacks what makes the band great: atmosphere and great songwriting. This is probably the fastest album they’ve made. Aphotic, though many fans I’ve met seem to be rather unenthusiastic about it, is one of my favorite albums by Novembers Doom. The album has three excellent songs right in a row: “The Dark Host”, “Harvest Scythe”, and “Buried Old”. This album explores the themes of death and decay and contains a perfect mix of harsh and clean vocals. This is Novembers Doom at its best: playing melancholic songs that inspire despair. Bled White was one of my favorite albums last year. Songs like “Heartfelt” and “Just Breathe” perfectly encapsulate what the band is good at doing. It took me several listens to initially get into the album, as the first track is not particularly compelling. Nailing the haunted atmosphere, Kuhr’s vocals perfectly reflect all the things I like about Novembers Doom.
Novembers Doom are a criminally underrated band that excel in creating an atmospheric experience that walk through many unpleasant topics. From loss of loved ones, to the decay of modern society, Paul Kuhr writes material that can reach out and touch the lives of many people. He bleeds forth his pain. As he says in “Buried” from Aphotic:
“I have been broken a hundred times
Beaten and battered forever scorned.
Living life with the rope around my neck
Just one push from the edge of life.”
Thanks again Xan for finally getting me into this great band. As always, check The Official Porcelain Throne Guidelines, and send your submissions!