Friday, 24 March 2017

Cardinal Wyrm – Cast Away Souls (2016) / 80%

Twisted and original doom

The Bay Area trio’s third album reaffirms the band's status as an odd beast in the doom metal world. With this style of metal, it's often easy to pinpoint the influences of a particular band. It's usually Black Sabbath, Pentagram or Candlemass or a combination and mixtures of various slow to mid-paced ingredients. With Cardinal Wyrm, things are different and odd. While they're apparently keeping things in the traditional realm, their sound is original and transcends classification and borders.

As a pseudo doom specialist/connoisseur, I kept trying to find similar bands to them but to no avail. Like their fellow American doom bands of Yob or SubRosa, they managed to blend several elements, innovate and ultimately come up with a fresh and vivid sound. The nearest comparison I came up with is the striking might of Celtic Frost’s Monotheist/Triptykon with the atmospheric sadness of My Dying Bride. This might even be a stretch but it shows how far Cardinal Wyrm goes. It’s an otherworldly version of Gothic doom transformed by the will and the powerful force of an ancient one.

Compared to their previous album, Cast Away Souls is a bit shorter and this was a good decision as one hour albums are often too long regardless of their quality. The six extended tracks record is tight, varied and explore different moods throughout an apparent simplicity and ultra heavy riffs.

Pranjal Tiwari’s vocals are cleans but also quite idiosyncratic in a military kind of way. Since he’s also the drummer, there’s a necessary connection between the vocals and the percussion and it creates some weird rhythms adding to the peculiarity of the band. The addition of Leila Abdul-Rauf (Vastum, Hammers of Misfortune...) can be heard through some harsh vocals and cleans as well but the band principally evolves as a duo (Leila plays the bass live.) Despite this, the sound is full and doesn’t lack anything. The music is quite complex but that’s not something automatically noticeable. You need to look for the hidden details underneath the heavy, repetitive and intricate guitar playing of Nathan Verrill.

While it’s not always fully memorable, Cast Away Souls is a strong record full of twists and turns. Like Realmbuilder does for epic heavy metal, Cardinal Wyrm plays their doom in a vacuum. It’s like they brought their instruments to Mars and composed their songs with the distant memories of their influences. The obvious nods to outside forces were cast away (pun intended.) Svart Records has been releasing strong and progressive thinking material ever since their inception and this one is no exception. One of the most original doom bands around, this is refreshing to hear when there’s so many Electric Wizard copies around.


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