Over on The Sons of Metal Podcast, El Goro has branded me "the doom guy" due to my predilection for the slower and darker side of metal. Naturally, this is going to mean coverage on doom metal albums here as well.
Doom:VS is one of those bands who has somehow escaped me over the years. I’ve heard the name a few times, but I hadn’t checked out any tracks in the past. Come to find out, this is actually a solo project by Swedish musician Johan Ericson (Draconian, Shadowgarden), and he releases albums whenever he has the material or motivation to do so, which is why this is only the third album in the band’s ten-year history.
The title track, Earthless starts off with a melodic opening before kicking in with a crushing guitar rhythm reminiscent of early My Dying Bride. Ericson creates a moody atmosphere, and his guttural growls intermingled with spoken passages really set the tone for the rest of the album.
A Quietly Forming Collapse is a plodding beast of a song. After stomping on your soul for four minutes, it breaks into a classical guitar-influenced melody in the middle of this over-nine-minute epic before returning to its dirge-like beginnings and finishing with an intricately-played guitar solo. It’s a glorious song and the album’s stand-out track.
The next two tracks, White Coffins and The Dead Swan of the Woods have a more traditional funeral doom feel to them, with the latter hearkening back to early Evoken. Spoken-word interludes break up the song and heighten the sense of loss and isolation Ericson is conjuring.
Oceans of Despair returns to more of the My Dying Bride influence. If you can, try to imagine the musicianship from Like Gods of the Sun with the vocal delivery on As the Flower Withers, adding in some clean singing and more spoken-word passages. As a long-time MDB fan, this definitely hits a sweet spot with me, even if the song is about drowning in your own sorrow.
The album closes with The Slow Ascent. As it advertises, the track slowly builds in tempo for eight minutes before dropping off into a keyboard melody once the song reaches its apex. If A Quietly Forming Collapse wasn’t so damned perfect, this would be a contender for the album’s best track.
If you’re a doom/death fan, you really owe it to yourself to check out Earthless. Ericson has created an outstanding album, and my only wish is that he could put out albums of this quality with greater frequency.