PICK OF THE WEEK: Ahab catapult into classic sea story draped in black on dark ‘The Coral Tombs’

Photo by Stefan Heilemann

An adventure under the sea is one of the last things I ever hope to take, no offense intended toward massive bodies of water. I enjoy being near the oceans, I appreciate sea creatures, but it’s just not a situation that suits me or in which I would thrive. I’m not even crazy about being in a boat on the river. There’s just way too many things that can go wrong.

Luckily, I can live vicariously through Ahab, the long-running and self-described “nautik funeral doom” band that has returned after eight long years with their excellent new record “The Coral Tombs,” their fifth overall. Unabashed fans of tales that originate in large bodies of water, this record focuses on the classic Jules Verne novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a story about Professor Pierre Aronnax and his shipmates who go on an excursion to find an elusive beast only to discover it’s actual a highly advanced submarine headed by Captain Nemo. Hijinks ensue. The band—guitarist/vocalist Daniel Droste, guitarist Christian Hector, bassist Stephan Wandernoth, drummer/percussionist Cornelius Althammer—dive headfirst into the story, joined by guests Greg Chandler (Esoteric) and Chris Noir (Ultha) who help bring this massive adventure into the doom world and make it a musical companion worthy of this classic. It’s the best thing Ahab ever has done, which is a massive statement considering their resume.

“Prof. Arronax’ Descent Into the Vast Oceans” starts in the most misleading manner possible, with the band in total devastation mode, mashing, drums blasting, everything coming apart before we gradually slide into slower, more torturous doom like we expect from Ahab. Droste’s singing keeps getting better and more soulful, and the band matches this with guitars aching, and the melodies warming up noticeably. The playing gushes and heads deeper into the water, flowing into “Colossus of the Liquid Graves” that stomps as the growls unfurl. A doomy pall hangs overhead as the foreboding increases dangerously, and sorrowful melodies stretch their wings, pummeling as the playing drowns out in slow noise. “Mobilis in Mobili” starts with waters bubbling, a blistering pace greeting you as the waves subside. Growls wretch as the playing grows spacious, clean calling glistening as the mood turns dour. Dark and lonely melodies tighten their grip, marching ominously as the power creaks and drubs to an end. “The Sea as a Desert” runs 10:49 and simmers in psychosis, the darkness thickening as the growls stir the pot, melodic singing later wafting and making the journey dreamier. The pace keeps moving under the current, looking like the shadow of a beast ready to pierce the surface.

“A Coral Tomb” opens slowly, the growls buckling as the shadows envelop. Slurring guitars immerse the senses as clean singing numbs your wounds, giving off a feel of corporeal class. The playing floats in the middle of nowhere before the storming comes on harder, jarring and electrifying, making your muscles scream as coldness takes over, lulling you into unconsciousness as everything slips away. “Ægri Somnia” runs 12:22 and moves solemnly but surely into the oncoming murk, pushing and crushing as the intensity builds. Growls lurch and later are relieving by atmospheric clean calls, and the pace plods as the pressure gets more intense, later gently dissolving and turning into ink. Growls well, rich singing becomes a deeper factor, and calls echo out, the emotional toll being paid heavily as the final moments disappear. Closer “The Mælstrom” runs 10:02 and bursts open, the playing sounding wonderfully fluid but also devastating. Dark growls engorge, changing the pace from the hearty singing, and elegant leads transform the dark waters to streaks of gold. Wild howls scrape, sounds pulsate, and static wells up and washes over you, burying you under the sea.

Ahab’s glorious, nautik doom was greatly missed the past eight years when they were absent, but “The Coral Tombs” brings back a spirit only this band can command. Over these harrowing 66 minutes, the band expands their sound and mission, making some of the most exciting funeral doom in a sub-genre not really known for that element. This is dawn-of-the-year classic that will be an incredible journey to take deep into the final days of this new calendar.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/AhabDoom

To buy the album (North America), go here: https://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/ahab

Or here (Europe): https://napalmrecords.com/deutsch/ahab

For more on the label, go here: https://napalmrecords.com/