There are albums that hit all the right notes, and usually in the right order. There are other albums that spend their entirety looking for a focus and never quite finding it. The new album by American Doomsters Castle somehow manages to do both.
Deal Thy Fate (Ripple) is the band’s fifth full-length record and it certainly starts well. The first song, ‘Can’t Escape The Evil’, is a nasty, crunchy and groove-laden beast, crowned with a magnificently menacing spoken word bridge and final solo. It’s as good a song as you’d hope for with an opening track. Next is ‘Skull in the Woods’, a more melancholic and whimsical track with a compelling set of hooks and a proper heavy metal vibe. That it does this, and yet still manages to shove in some old school doom too is quite the achievement.
On then, to ‘Hexenring’, which has a simpler, slower sound and a methodically tight grip on when to let the guitars mope with doom chords, and when to rock out with faintly distraught vocals and solos. It succeeds in that it is plainly a Doom Metal song, but it doesn’t sound too much like sodding Sabbath like too many do (there is a bit of Reverend Bizarre lurking in the mournful guitar licks, mind you.)
So far, so good, you might think. But fifth track ‘Wait for Dark’ is the point where the album starts losing its way. There are no more standout moments, and instead, the core riff starts to sound just a tad too repetitive. It’s all a little too beige and jumbled up, like Castle threw all its ideas at the song, and all the band got in return was a mess. This trend continues to the end, but at least album closer ‘Firewind’ tries to do something different, with a slow, drawn-out sound and desolate vocals, but again, it lacks direction, that spark of inspiration that made the early parts of the album so compelling.
Harsh, but true – Deal Thy Fate has no staying power.
Which is all a shame. Guitarist Mat Davis can weave some serious magic when the wind is blowing in the right direction, while Elizabeth Blackwell‘s vocals are both evocative and consistent, but in summary, it’s an uneven album that disappoints as much as it enthralls and would have done so much better as an EP.