I’ve never been a big fan of sea stories. I don’t know why that is, but those types of tales never really made a big difference in my life or played a role in my formation as a person like so many other forms of fiction and non-fiction have.
OK, Homer’s “Odyssey” was a one of my favorite stories growing up, and what metal fan didn’t eventually dig into Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” simply based on the Iron Maiden epic of the same name? But for me, that’s pretty much where it ends. I’ve read “Moby Dick,” but it never was one of my favorite books. That makes me feel a little dumb because we’re here today to talk about German nautik funeral doom band Ahab and their new album “The Giant.” Obviously, the band took their name from the great white whale hunter from Herman Melville’s novel, and their music has been based on dark tales from the oceans and seas.
For album three, the band is tackling a new water-based text in Edgar Allan Poe’s only complete novel, the more-than-a-mouthful “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.” The story, published in 1838 in two volumes, follows Pym as he is stowed aboard a whaling ship called the Grampus and faces many challenges, storms, and horrors, as one would expect from Poe, before being rescued by members of the ship the Jane Guy. That’s a horribly bare-bones summary, but those are the basics you need to know. And if you choose to ignore the narrative and simply immerse yourself in Ahab’s music, I wouldn’t argue with that decision, as you’d still get a lot of value from them.
Ahab has been a band since 2004, and they delivered their impressive, hopelessly dark debut album “The Call of the Wretched Sea” in 2006. That album was a mammoth, moved deliberately slowly, and left you feeling as if you were stuck in the darkest depths of the sea with no lights or signs of hope. Three years later, they returned with “The Divinity of Oceans,” an effort that also was quite suffocating and heavy but also added more melodies and even clean vocals into the mix. It turned out it was just the beginning of the band’s coming of age, as “The Giant” continues Ahab’s evolution and add more shades and colors, with doom and death only being two elements of what these guys – vocalist/guitarist/keyboard player Daniel Droste, guitarist Chris Hector, bassist Stephan Wandernoth and drummer Cornelius Althammer – bring to the table.
It’s clear to hear how much these four have grown as a band just taking on the opener “Further South,” one of the most accessible, creatively realized songs in their canon that should please their fans and those who swear by Opeth, Katatonia, and Paradise Lost. While there are growls and some muddy moments, the song glimmers and bursts with life, even incorporating some 1970s-style folk rock into the thing. “Aeons Elapse” grows out of this cut, with a calming, seemingly serene open complete with whispery passages and eventually some crooning that gets a bit too throaty at times. “Deliverance (Shouting at the Dead)” follows, and it, too, has a clean introduction before things ignite and sends columns of smoke and flame into the sky with heavier crunching and some lurching growls.
The album and perhaps even Ahab’s career, peaks on “Antarctica the Polymorphess,” an 11:45 gem that is absolutely majestic and damn-near perfect in scope. There’s a watery feel in the first moments, and the band does a fine job setting the pace for this thing, and when the doom-rich leads are unleashed, the song reaches the upper echelon of metal. There are furious growls, mournful clean singing, incredible solo work, and a sense that nothing but danger and darkness is afoot. It’s a remarkable song that’ll be hard for this band to top. “Fathoms Deep Blue” is equally spacious and vicious, feeling like it’s coming right from this quartet’s collective guts, while the closing title track has some awkward group singing (it’s a little too Alice in Chains for someone like me, who can’t stand that band), but it’s a minor blip that gets covered up by more cement-thick riffing, bubbling growls, penetrating noise, and volcanic emissions that end the record on a pulverizing note.
Ahab is a band that continually gets better, and I can only imagine how great they’re going to sound on album four. They’ve progressed organically and haven’t lost an ounce of their fire, and they’re truly one of doom metal’s unsung heroes. Maybe this record will push this band over the top and get them into bigger U.S. houses to douse fans with their waves of nautik funeral punishment.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.ahab-doom.de/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.napalmrecords.com/product_info.php?products_id=14788&osCsid=f7a47e88a0b9a45b5bee415da4e9e848
For more on the label, go here: http://www.napalmrecords.com/