Novembers Doom – Bled White (2014 SPOTLIGHT) – The highly anticipated follow up to 2011’s Aphotic has finally arrived with Bled White. But what’s interesting about the album is that it’s a natural progression from the lighter approach of that previous disc. Comparable in ways to The Pale Haunt Departure, the album contains a number of clean vocal passages stuffed in between furious bouts of death metal, as shown on the disc’s punishing opener and title track. For those who might have thought Aphotic a bit too light, Bled White certainly punches up the heaviness by about a hundredfold as thundering guitars accentuate Paul Kuhr’s already pungent growls, whilst the drums are laid on as thick as ten pounds of iron stuffed into a hubcap burger. Seriously, folks – this album is thick and it’s that thickness which makes the dark emotion behind the record come off so menacingly. Each album seemed to be a portrait of his life and feelings at the time, and this one certainly sees him at yet another turbulent era. Atmosphere actually comes into play at certain parts of the record, as “Just Breathe 7:49” works to bring us more of the clean/heaviness of the previous album, showing that Paul’s clean vocals are even better than they were on earlier records. Perhaps it’s the glossy recording, but the lines just seem to deliver with a much stronger sense of passion, which is only heightened by impressively clean leads and solos. Yes, there are certainly a few solos thrown about on the disc and each and every one used on the record is indeed memorable. Obviously, the band really put a lot of time and effort into this recording and it shows. “Unrest 5:25” actually throws some progressive ingredients into the Novembers Doom pot, working quite well in all actuality. The band actually seems bulletproof at this point, as each moment of experimentation doesn’t serve to become a misstep. These guys really believe that Bled White may very well be their best album and that’s saying quite a bit considering their previous output. But I really can’t deny the powerful clean lines on “The Memory Room” coupled with such beautiful and melancholic melodies, working alongside sharp doom riffs and thick vocal gravel. There’s no doubt that Bled White is an album birthed out of experience and seems to be the band at their most mature.
Oddly enough, there’s just one track on the disc that I feel is slightly out of place and that would be “The Brave Pawn 3:57.” It’s heavy as hell, but much shorter than the rest of the songs on the disc as it kills the somber mood in favor of one quick bout of the traditional death metal approach attempted on 2009’s Into Night’s Requiem Infernal (which you can get for free with a purchase of their book, The Wayfaring Chronicles). I think it would have worked better on there, so hearing it here just doesn’t work for me. Especially when the last couple of tracks are extremely melodic and emotionally potent in the vein of the band’s previous record. “The Grand Circle 6:48” still has its moments of pummeling death metal mayhem, as does atmospheric album closer “The Silent Dark 9:28” near the very end. I would certainly be correct to say that the band have balanced the death metal and clean portions of the record exquisitely, culminating in an experience that is nothing less than memorable. If I could say anything more about this album, it would definitely have to be yet another highlight in “Animus” which comes off as one of the band’s best moments since The Pale Haunt Departure. There is no doubt in my mind that Bled White showcases Novembers Doom at their very best and it’s a shining moment in the band’s history. Without a doubt, Novembers Doom has made one of the best albums of 2014 with this absolute masterpiece of a record. There’s just no stopping these guys and their horde of doom, gloom and fragile emotional matter. This is the sound of pain that is genuine, not the sort of emo whining or whatever people do now when they’re upset over losing a girlfriend. Bled White is truly the sound of human struggle and frustration. Embrace the sorrow.
Highlights: Bled White, Heartfelt, Just Breathe, Unrest, The Memory Room, Animus (11 Tracks, 68:00)