Novembers Doom continue dark journey through solemnity on excellent 10th album ‘Hamartia’

Is there such thing as a legendary figure that operates under the radar? It seems like those who are considered such an important figure would have a very obvious career trajectory and a clean line of disciples walking behind that person singing his or her praises. But is that always the case?

While many doom fans certainly know who he is, I would posit that Paul Kuhr could be exactly the type of person noted above. Certainly, he’s made a name for himself fronting Chicago-based doom band Novembers Doom for nearly three decades now, but you don’t always hear his name tossed around with other genre builders who also made music during that time. He and Novembers Doom definitely deserve to be mentioned alongside groups such as Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride (Andrew Craighan guests on their new record, quite fittingly) and Katatonia, and they further solidify their impressive resume on the band’s killer 10th record “Hamartia.” As usual, Kuhr is out front and center, twisting and turning his voice to suit the music as it morphs from unforgivingly heavy to gothy to emotionally dramatic. For the first time in band history, Novembers Doom have kept a lineup in tact from the previous album (2014’s “Bled White”) as guitarists Larry Roberts and Vito Morchese (Divinity Compromised), bassist Mike Feldman, and drummer Garry Naples (Without Waves) combine with Kuhr to create a cohesive, powerful unit ready to push the band toward its landmark 30th year.

“Devil’s Light” begins the record with epic guitar work and melodies that boil and crush. Murky synth makes its way into the mix to add darkened texture, while the howl of, “My soul is pain!” after a riveting solo, gets the album off on the right foot. “Plague Bird” starts clean and ominous before leaping headlong into distortion and power. “This air is poisoned with the past,” Kuhr calls, letting you feel his blackness, while later he returns with growls as the song enters its gothy, murky finish. “Ghost” also begins serenely before the doors are ripped off, and the chaos pushes in. Kuhr’s vocals are more conversational here, as he unfurls his tale and warns, “Run while you can.” The track eventually finds its way to solemnity, as Kuhr notes, “I’m haunted by the ghost of yesterday,” letting you feel his anguish and frustration. “Ever After” emerges from aggressive drumming and a trudging pace, keeping things thrashy and punchy, even as Kuhr goes for croon, though he leans toward grit later. Great soloing bursts through and pushes the fires to an uncontrollable level, bringing this killer cut to a smoldering finish. The title track simmers in quivering noise at the outset, then sad keys and acoustics wash in, with Kuhr coldly singing through the mist. The band does a great job creating a somber environment that keeps hold until it fades away.

“Apostasy” is the angriest song on the record, as guitars tear things apart, and Kuhr’s growls grind meat in its gears. “Your god is dead!” he howls, as powerful, punishing soloing erupts and brings the song to a vicious end. “Miasma” is gothy and shadow-filled, with Rhiannon Kuhr trading lines with Paul and making her presence greatly felt. The song is sad and cloudy, but still heavy, with calls of, “There’s no life without you,” making a huge dent in your chest. “Zephyr” is awash in acoustics at the beginning, though it gets punchier and heavier as it goes on. Kuhr’s growls land hard, though clean singing dresses the choruses, and more stellar guitar pushes this song aggressively over the finish line. “Waves in the Red Cloth” actually has some Western musical influences in it, with slide guitars drizzling over the song. But there also are crushing, devastating moments, as lurching singing turns to guttural growling, and the track takes on a sinister tone. Closer “Borderline” is a 9:03 ballad that gushes with pain and emotion. “I wave goodbye with bloody hands,” Kuhr moans, as the band delves into a classic doom dirge that’s melodic, heart-tearing, and full of longing. As expected, the tempo gets crunchier, with fierce vocals situated underneath Kuhr’s clean singing, and soloing that burns away. It’s a really fantastic song and a great way to end their 10th album.

Kuhr and Novembers Doom have been a part of doom’s spine not only here in America but around the world. “Hamartia” is another fine example of their strength, a strong, varied record that finds the band as formidable and vibrant as ever, with no end in sight. It’s great having a band such as this who may have carved their legacy a little further underground reminding us all their importance and power.

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