"What is best in life?" "DOOM METAL!"
Do you like Solstice? Yes, fine, you're checking the right band. You should probably order this CD already, no need to read my review. Well, it would be nice if you would anyway. Still here? Cool, then. “Ave Mortis” is Cromlech's debut album and it's a massive testament to their epicness with its seventy minutes length. The band from the Ontarian metropolis has chosen an apt year to release their first album as the first Solstice release in more than a decade graced us of its presence. Just beneath Atlantean Kodex's sophomore, this is one of the best albums the epic doom genre offered us in this sanctified year.
The epic doom unit includes three members of Into Oblivion, a death/black band widely unknown for their long ass tracks that are going nowhere. I thought it was pretty peculiar for a band of this genre to have twenty minutes songs. While Cromlech definitely has some monotonous parts, it's more or less an accepted feature of their genre and a problem that many doom bands are encountering. “Ave Mortis” only has eight songs but six of them are more than eight minutes long. Some editing would had been nice, maybe to keep the album under or near an hour. One human being can only take a certain amount of badassery in one day and I felt a bit overwhelmed after this battle. The armour, yet comfortable can be burdening. Nonetheless, there's some extended lead guitars parts that are quite enjoyable such as in the nine minutes instrumental “Amongst the Tombs”. This band has big balls, it's not easy to pull off an instrumental song like that but they pulled it off with a lot of verve.
The band has a natural guitar tone made enjoyable by the earthy and raw production. It's certainly not the best sound they could get but it does the job, crunchier guitars would had been nice though. The dual lead guitars of David Baron and Roman Lechman (the co-composers of the band) are tasty as fuck, the leads are rightfully placed and aren't overplayed. Their riffs are not so heavy and they're very melodic but there's still a thundering approach to their musical identity such as in “Honor” with its fast paced heavy metal riffs.
Their songwriting is pretty varied, we have a short, fast track like “Lend Me Your Steel” and many songs have faster, almost borrowing the speed metal tempos at times. One thing's for sure though, it's always tremendously epic. The bulk of the album is the two middle tracks with their identical lengths of 11:25 minutes, they're a good resume of the band's identity. The epic doom identity is intertwined with an healthy mix of enjoyable Manowar and traditional power/heavy metal influences. The musicians definitely know the direction they follow, it's energetic despite the lengthy bits because it always had the sense to be groovy as hell. The bass is lively and noticeable especially in the final epic track “Shadow and Flame” with its bass lead opening.
Perhaps the main force of Cromlech is their vocals. It's Kevin Loghnane's debut metal endeavour and surely not his last. The dude has pipes! He's very similar to the legendary Hansi Kürsch and if you're not excited at the though of the singer of Blind Guardian fronting an epic doom band, well, what the fuck are you doing here? Loghnane weren't on the demo or the split the band did before their full length and even though I haven't heard these releases, I can only assert that he's an excellent addition. His clean voice is powerful and emotional, I actually wish his presence would had been more important since he's bringing an ethereal and poetic side to the band. Actually, he's not on the songs 2, 4 and 5 because he was a late addition to the band, it's instead Lechman who's doing the lead vocals. His voice is harsher but still pretty cool. There's also a lot of backing and supporting vocals adding another level of narrative but to be fair, most of the time, they're not really necessary, they're tough guys shouts such as the “Hail! Hail! Hail!” in “Honor”. Just give a bigger place to Loghnane and you'll have a much solid beast, no need to rely on these harsher vocals to be heavier.
The themes and lyrics, obviously more epic than a ten foot beard, are quite fun to read. We have songs about Tolkien, Howard and Rome history and of course, while nothing new and ground breaking (who the hell cares), it's well done and more than delightful.
“Ave Mortis” is a strong effort from these Canucks and although the sound is slightly too raw, it's very professional as proven by the artwork created by the famous Kris Verwimp (Absu, Sear Bliss, Suidakra...). Cromlech is a band to check out and alongside Funeral Circle, they're the future and the admiral emergence of Canadian epic doom metal. Get this.
Thanks to David Baron for the review opportunity.
Cromlech on the book of faces