Novembers Doom – Hamartia

A band like Novembers Doom could only come from a cold place, where nights are long and bleak and depression stalks you like some winged, fork-tongued creature straight from a Clive Barker novel. And if you’ve ever felt the wind blowing off of Lake Michigan in winter, you’ll know the cold, bleak Chicago from which Novembers Doom hails.

Long considered one of the underground’s best-kept secrets, Novembers Doom is unfailingly consistent despite a revolving roster of musicians rivaling only Napalm Death or Spinal Tap. We have sole remaining founding member and vocalist Paul Kuhr to thank for that consistency. And for the first time in their nearly thirty-year career, the band’s lineup has remained the same for two consecutive albums.

The familiarity, the cohesiveness between its members, shows on Hamartia (The End). Guitarists Larry Roberts and Vito Marchese, bassist Mike Feldman, and drummer Garry Naples lay a suitably morose foundation for Paul Kuhr to work his magic upon.

Novembers Doom’s tenth full-length follows in the snow-crusted footprints of Bled White (The End) trading equally in crushing, reverbed riffery and crisp melodic passages that make sadness sound sexy. Vocally, Hamartia leans heavily on the clean side, but it’s the tracks where Kuhr’s chest rattling growls appear that the album finds its sweet spot. Opener ‘Devils Light’, likely the strongest track of the bunch, perfectly balances those contradictions of darkness and light in a furious five minutes that is somehow both evil and completely uplifting at the same time. And ‘Ghost’ with its melancholy intro reminiscent of Alice In ChainsJar of Flies (Columbia) and soul-rending lyrics, will leave you pondering the contradictions of darkness and light within yourself and those you love.

Perhaps it is precisely this contradictory nature that makes the record. The near-tribal first minute of ‘Ever After’ bleeds into crunchy riffs and dissonance and, later, guitar harmonies that have this writer thinking about parts of In FlamesThe Jester Race (Toy’s Factory). Standouts ‘Waves In the Red Cloth’ and ‘Zephyr’ weave major and minor key melodies into and throughout each other, Kuhr effortlessly alternating between singing and growling in a way that would make those trendy mallcore bands with two vocalists jealous. And then there’s ‘Hamartia’, a lush and vibratory piece that begins on a note of hope and ends in hell as it segues into the brutal ‘Apostasy’.

With an album as strong as Hamartia, one wonders how long until the secret is out. And why the hell it isn’t already?