After almost 6 years Doom:VS is finally back with a new album, “Earthless”. “Earthless” is the third full length from this side project of Draconian guitarist Johan Ericson and was released this past May by the Russian Doom label Solitude Productions. On previous releases Ericson took on all of the vocal duties himself – and did a really nice job of it. This time around however, he has enlisted the help of Saturnus vocalist, Thomas A.G. Jensen who brings his trademark deep, guttural growls and soft spoken words. Jenson’s vocals bring a strong Saturnus feel to the music which blends with uncanny ease into the Doom:VS, Draconian style. Although Jenson’s vocals are very strong and his spoken words add a new element to the music, I’m a bit disappointed that Ericson has chosen to leave out a lot of the clean vocals that made the previous album “Dead Words Speak” so great. This is not to say he has forgotten about them entirely. They do find their way into the last two songs “Oceans of Despair” and “The Slow Decent”. In any case Jenson’s thunderous growls have a way of sending chills through your spine and his spoken word is as strong and sorrowful as ever which more than makes up for the lack of clean singing.
There’s no arguing the fact that “Earthless” is a very solid, doom metal release. In fact it’s one of the best extreme doom releases this year in my opinion. It can be however, slightly predictable. Sometimes though predictability is a welcome thing. Sometimes it’s nice to throw on an album knowing full well that you will find quality song writing, strong production and you can sit back and relax, loosing yourself in the familiar, welcoming feel of the music. I’ve always been fond of the guitar tones Ericson uses. They are unique and recognizable. There’s feeling in the slow, dark riffs and sweeping harmonies of the leads which create a very melancholic yet familiar atmosphere. With Doom:VS this sound is a bit more raw and organic than with Draconian or Saturnus.
As with all Doom:VS releases the music is slow death/doom and does not quite reach funeral doom territory. There are six tracks on the album with the shortest being just under 7 1/2 minutes. The songs flow very well from the opening song “Earthless” to the very last note of “The Slow Ascent”. I can’t say there are any weak moments. Every song is strong and well thought out. The whole album is just over 50 minutes long but it flows through quicker than you might expect. A sign of a good album and not something a lot of bands in this genre can accomplish.
No matter which way you cut it, “Earthless” is a must listen for any fan of death/doom or even funeral doom. It continues down the tried, tested and true path set by the project’s earlier releases so if you’re expecting ground breaking innovation you will be slightly disappointed. If you just want some very strong, melancholic doom then this album will fulfill all of your expectations and more.
Johan Ericson (All instruments)
Guest vocals performed by Thomas AG Jenson (Saturnus)