Thursday, March 1, 2012

Review: The 11th Hour - Lacrima Mortis (2012)

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Lacrima Mortis

The 11th Hour - Lacrima Mortis
Workhorse drummer Ed Warby, of Gorefest and Ayreon (among others) fame, created The 11th Hour as a means by which he could express his interest in traditional doom metal. Influenced by the greats of the genre such as Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus, the Dutchman released his debut album in 2009 to considerable critical acclaim. Handling the vocals and all of the instruments himself, with the exception of the deathish growls courtesy of Rogga Johansson, Warby produced perhaps one of the better doom/death releases of the last decade. Now, with Lacrima Mortis, Warby tests the "sophomore slump" theory and for the most part proves The 11th Hour to be still up to the task.

The differences between Lacrima Mortis and Warby's previous album are significant, though the overall style remains very much the same. For starters, unable to provide his earthshaking growls due to a lengthy illness, Johannson was replaced by Officium Triste's Pim Blankenstein. Though there is no comparing the two, Blankenstein nevertheless offers up an excellent performance that is both menacing and relatively easily deciphered. The way with which Warby mixes his own clean singing with Blankenstein's aggressive style provides an excellent contrast of moods, effectively conveying the often symbiotic emotions of anger and sorrow experienced at times of loss and bereavement.

The 11th Hour - Ed Warby
While that theme is shared by Lacrima Mortis and its predecessor, this album is not quite the tragic concept album that is Burden of Grief. The stories are varied this time, though most reach the same conclusion, with "Death of Life" perhaps the most heart-wrenching of the lot. Not only is this song remarkable for its lyrics, but Warby delivers his most convincing vocal performance of the album and the melodic riff/synth interplay during the refrains is expertly crafted. Yet while most of the songs here plod along at a pace appropriate for the weighty lyrics, a couple ratchet up the energy a bit through crunchy, chugging riffs and an almost wistful keyboard presence. "Tears of the Bereaved" is one of those tracks, though by the latter half of the tune the dirgelike heaviness is back in full force. This song also contains what I feel to be the only real misstep of Lacrima Mortis in the form of the sounds of a woman weeping. Instead of enhancing the message, the effect is rather distracting and jarred me away from the mood the rest of the track worked so well to develop.

As enjoyably depressive as Lacrima Mortis is, I hesitate to declare it a remarkable album for the genre. Boundaries are left uncrossed, innovation is left undisturbed, and emotions are only slightly awakened. The album is good, well-written and executed almost without flaw, but its hooks only scratch the surface of our melancholy without firmly clutching on to our sorrow. Sophomore slump Lacrima Mortis is not, but fans looking for a repeat of Burden of Grief will be disappointed.

Track Listing
1We All Die Alone7:24
2Rain On Me8:24
3The Death of Life7:15
4Tears of the Bereaved8:46
5Reunion Illusion8:07
6Nothing But Pain7:37
7Bury Me4:47
Total Runtime52:20

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