Fires in the Distance - Echoes from Deep November
It's the most fabulous (doom metal) time of the year with this ripper debut.
You could be forgiven for not seeing this debut record coming from Connecticut-based Fires In the Distance. Released by the prolific and respected Prosthetic Records seemingly with little pre-release hype, Echoes From Deep November has, however, been generally well received by the metal commentariat. The album title and sleeve art are instructive of the atmosphere and melancholia inherent in what is a solid and mature melodic doom metal album that encompasses a variety of stylistic influences.
Inspired by emotional trauma, personal struggle and loss, the tone of the album is set by opener The Climb with a big forlorn epic sound of cascading cold keys, guttural death metal vocals and piledriving riffs that alternate with quieter reflective passages. Things get harsher with pummelling riffs and precision battery drumming on Elusive Light, which develops an ominous sense of drama with a haunted sprindrift of keys. You can almost feel the burn of cold Scandinavian air with the forlorn, crawling The Lock and The Key, with its slow heavy chug offset by sweeping dreamy synths and gorgeous hook lines before building to a truly rousing blast of melancholic death metal. Similarly, the aptly titled Reflections On Ice neatly alternates driving frosted metal riffs with wistful, shimmering effect-laden passages. Chained to the Earth has a tortured, mournful tragic crawl while the seething instrumental closer Sundial is an appropriately intense closing bookend. The production quality is impressive with a sound that is rich, taught and crisp which compliments the mood and pathos of the songs. Stylistically, there are hints of Scandinavian melodeath, early Swallow the Sun, Insomnium, or perhaps Paradise Lost at their most death metal.
Plaintive yet at times uplifting, Echoes From Deep November is a hypnotizing pastiche of hard hitting emotive imagery and soulful, atmospheric moments. While there is a veritable metallic crunch with juddering, titanic riffs and a convincing and well-matched death metal vocal performance, the heaviosity is tempered by reflective poignancy and ethereal drama. Keys, synths and samples - so often just peppered as an embellishment or after-thought to atmospheric heavy music - are instead integrated intelligently into the fabric of the song-writing.
The album also avoids another doom metal bad habit of outstaying its welcome with song structures that are varied in pace and tone from battering death metal, triumphal hook lines, and brooding melancholy while the vocals tend to be employed sparingly thus allowing the soundscapes to breathe. Moreover, Fires in the Distance do not get over-extravagant or lost in dreamy introspection with songs that are focussed and manoeuvres that are controlled. The style is not new and this genre is mobbed with contenders but Fires in the Distance deliver quality, cohesiveness, emotional genuineness as well as plenty of tricks to stand out from the pack. With some tentative writing for a second album under way, you may see more pre-release fanfare in the future. Until then, have a nice winter.