Quality Steel Records
Released: March 2015
German band Crimson Swan perform an atmospheric, floating style of death-doom that encompasses the likes of Swallow The Sun, Paradise Lost, Mournful Congregation and Shape Of Despair. From start to finish, ‘Unlit’ offers solid, blissful heaviness, epic and elongated riffs, and rich, soaring melody.
The seething tones of the guitars work well in a delicate balance against the split clean/growled vocals. And solemn synths are an excellent, mournful ever-presence, underpinning and strengthening the band’s overall sound, especially on the glorious ‘Accusations’ and the stunning funeral-doom album closer ‘Voidhaven’.
The first track, ‘Fade To Nothingness’, has great energy and momentum, but is a little safe and familiar. The same can be said of much of the album’s first half, and it is only later on that the quality steel is unleashed.
Crimson Swan sometimes fall prey to the trap of being overly emotive; squeezing in so many heart-wrenching elements that they begin to have the opposite of their desired effect – turning listeners off rather than drawing them in. There is too much flowery poetry, too much ersatz whispering, too much fairytale. Such emotional overload undermines the gravity of the band’s slow, serpentine riffs and their elegiac musicality.
“Staring at a crimson horizon.” (Oh God, he’s whispering again…) “I am draped in a cloak of shadows.” (OK, I’ll put the kettle on…) Sadly, when he’s not employing unnecessarily hushed tones, the singer’s thinly growled vocals are also less than convincing. In fact, he is at his best when simply singing; something that happens too infrequently on this album.
The final two songs are truly gigantic doom opuses, but that’s not quite sufficient to make up for repeated infringements earlier on. Crimson Swan’s ‘Unlit’ is an ambitious debut that has masterful moments, but is blighted by mawkish sentimentalism.