By Earthdog

November's Doom got a lot of flak over their last effort, 'Into Night's Requiem Infernal,' People said it was too generic of typical death-doom and the band was accused of going a bit stonerish and psychedelic. Well ,I must be crazy then, because I thought it was their best album yet and to throw more shit at the fan, I will say this new one if anything is not as good. I know my opinion will be a controversial one but even though 'Aphotic' has many twists and turns, there are no real surprises here.

However, this is one rock-solid album for what it is and while the band seem to be fighting against the generic doom/death tag, the truth is this is a death/doom album, pure and simple. I don't want to go off on a tangent about 'what is death-doom' but if My Dying Bride fit the death-doom tag, then so do November's Doom. The band has been active since 1989 and have a large discography starting with 'Amid Its Hallowed Mirth' in 95 and the album regarded by many (but not me) as their finest work, 'Of Sculptured Ivy and Stone' in 1999. This is where the review for this album begins as it does sound like a bit of a throwback to those earlier albums.

This album begins with the very My Dying Bride-ish intro that kicks off 'The Dark Host' complete with violin played by Earthen Grave’s Rachel Barton Pine but after that, it is mid-tempo death-metal with melodic breakdowns. If the music isn't doom-metal, the mood of the track certainly is with its despondent atmosphere. The track builds to a disheveled ending after 8 minutes and is the most 'death-metal' track out of the bunch but it is also the weakest overall in my view as the album only gets better from here on in. Second track up, 'Harvest Scythe' kicks off in a brutal deathly style before mutating into a clean, catchy tune that might disappoint the death-metal faithful out there as the song is based more on melodies than it is riffing. You have to wait till track three before any real doom enters the picture, when 'Buried' blends haunting acoustics with a sinister death-march and the vocals switch between growls and emotive croons. This track , however,  is neither good nor bad , just barely adequate as they seem to me at least to be too restrained at times. A good example is the next song in the running order, 'What Could Have Been' which is a ballad featuring the angelic voice of Anneke van Giersbergen of The Gathering. It is stripped down to just acoustics, violin and piano and the vocals going back and forth between Paul Kuhr and Van Giersbergen are totally mesmerizing but at 6:33 minutes long, it is emotional overkill.

The two-part 'Of Age and Origin' has some deathly chugging in the first half and soft melancholic acoustics in the second. The track'ss second half doesn't do much for me but the crooning from Kuhr is at least interesting. 'Six Sides'  delivers a great opening riff, reminiscent of  the better My Dying Bride material and the sadness and despondency really comes to the forefront of the song. The rhythmic intensity of the song is stunning and overall this is a great representation of how death and doom can co-exist within a song. This all leads up to another disappointment, the closing 'Shadow Play,' Strange when an album starts and ends on the two worst tracks but that is precisely what has happened here. I know I will get some hate-mail over this review but sorry, I just don't hear anything above average on tracks like these. On the plus side, the musicianship is top-notch, and the production is simply massive and most of the songs are indescribably moody and epic. The problem is it lacks that vital spark and there is nothing that really connects with me lyrically. The band strikes me as a second-rate Opeth and that band bores me to tears anyway. 'Aphotic' has some great moments but it is too-heavy on the 'fluff' for my liking..........6/10