Graveyard of Souls
Shadows of Life

The magic of the late ’80s/early ’90s underground metal is well documented and revered, but the often-overlooked three-year span of ’94 to ’96 was something special in its own right. With the brutality race pretty much over, established death metal bands like Tiamat, Hypocrisy, and Cemetary along with upstarts such as Crematory (DE), Novembre, and The 3rd and the Mortal were free to explore more atmospheric avenues. However, many bands in this vein soon lost their balance of ambience and heaviness, making the mid ’90s a significant peak in atmospheric extreme metal. This burst of emotional creativity in underground metal is what inspires the Spanish two-piece, Graveyard of Souls.

For those of you familiar with that brief era, Shadows of Life will immediately transport you back to the days of Wildhoney and Tales from the Thousand Lakes. However, more recent converts to metal’s dark side may not know exactly what to make of it. There’s no attempt to be either oppressive and bleak, trendy and accessible, or innovative and genre-bending. So, don’t expect to find any of the post-rock/shoegaze influence that pervades a large part of ambient metal nowadays. It’s also far from the dark, cavernous death/doom that’s been making a bit of a comeback lately. It could be considered middle-of-the-road, but that’s actually part of what makes it special. There aren’t many bands traveling down that part of the road nowadays. But, what really makes it worth your ear is its genuine emotion and rich atmosphere.

The album greets you with an intro of lush, serene synths, which flow throughout the entire album, rising and falling opposite the explosions of grand, melancholic guitar melodies. Unlike a lot of current death/doom, these guys aren’t afraid to write some huge melodies that can even feel uplifting at times. The dreamy, spiralling of “Follow Me” is more likely to get your head swaying than drooping. In fact, most of the songs never stray far from mid-paced. There’s the steady march of the title track and “Dreaming of Some Day to Awake,” but songs like “Memories of the Future (We Are)” and “Dead Earth” are relatively energetic. The only exception is ethereal closer, “There Will Come Soft Rains.” I can’t tell if the drumming is from man or machine since it doesn’t really stand out, but it gets the job done. What you’re listening for is the atmosphere anyway, and this certainly delivers in that regard.

Comparisons could be drawn to prominent ‘90s releases like Mandylion, Icon, and Wildhoney, but the albums that came to my mind the most were a little more obscure. Anyone like me who has been looking for something else resembling Nox Mortis’s Im Schatten Des Hasses and Dark’s Endless Dreams of Sadness, or wished that As Divine Grace and Darkseed had never evolved beyond the style of their debut EPs, this is the album you’ve been waiting for. That’s not to say Graveyard of Souls is an exact clone of any of those bands, but the spirit of those recordings can be strongly felt.

There’s an endearing rawness and singular devotion to their craft much like that of the many retro death metal bands around today. Even the vocals never waver from a regal growl similar to that of early Theatre of Tragedy and My Dying Bride. Their cover of the Tears for Fears classic “Mad World” sounds a little awkward for this reason, but I’d say it’s the best that a death/doom version of the song could possibly be and I commend them for trying. Maybe next time they could take on something more goth, just so long as they don’t emulate the path of the bands that inspire them too closely and take their entire sound too far in that direction, losing the balance that makes them special. But, something tells me I have no need to worry.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Adam Palm
August 13th, 2013

Comments

  1. Commented by: drowningincorn

    Great reference to the time this sounds like. I decided to check this out and was immediately reminded of riding my bike through the woods on my way to work back in high school. Awesome.


  2. Commented by: Adam Palm

    You must’ve had a great soundtrack for those bike rides.


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