Shape of Despair
Monotony Fields

As bands like Funeral, Thergothon, and Skepticism took doom metal to its ultimate depressive conclusion in the mid ‘90s, the funeral doom sub-subgenre was born. Finland’s Shape of Despair formed around that time under the name Raven, but didn’t release their debut, Shades of…, until 2000. By this time, Funeral had moved on to something more gothic and Thergothon was playing darkwave as This Empty Flow. Fortunately for Shape of Despair, timing doesn’t really matter with this timeless sound. That’s why these gloomy Fins’ exceptionally lush take on it thrust them to the genre’s forefront, and why the 11 years since their last full-length hasn’t hurt them in the least.

But, if you’re a funeral doom fan, you already know this. And, anyone who isn’t (i.e. the vast majority of metal fans) probably won’t even give this review a cursory glance. So, who am I writing this for? I suppose a curious few could wander by. If you happen to be one of them and you’re thinking of dipping your toes into some of metal’s darkest depths, I can assure you that this is a perfect place to start. Funeral doom doesn’t get more accessible than this. The production is crystal clear and the slow but steady unfurling of each track will hold your interest more than most others can in this field. There’s also more than just single-minded depression to behold here. Instead of bleak, barren landscapes, the music paints scenes of fertile, rolling hills and misty forests. Of course, the hour is late and full of woe — this is funeral doom after all — but there is immense beauty here that goes beyond what anyone else is doing in this field.

Or, maybe you’re someone like me who is already familiar with this miserable music, but might be wary of committing another hour and a quarter of your life to it since it’s been so hit or miss over the years. You see, I hesitate to call myself a funeral doom fan because even some of the most revered acts bore me to tears. However, a few of my favorite albums in recent years have come from bands that sit firmly within the confines of the genre. Acts like Black Wreath, Faal, Mournful Congregation, and Urna know just how to create something truly captivating from what I often find to be completely dull and lifeless. Thankfully, Monotony Fields falls into the former category. The entire band works together as one tight, professional unit of despondency. Vocal-wise, newcomer Henri Koivula of Throes of Dawn provides earth-shuddering growls that you’d never guess he was capable of based on his previous work and Natalie Koskinen’s vocals are as stunning as ever. Highlighting individual tracks is pointless because they’re all highlights, which I guess is a nice way of saying that they all sound about the same. And, even though it’s amazing while it’s playing, it can be forgettable once it’s over. But, that’s not so much a problem with the album as just the nature of this genre.

With this plus new albums from Skepticism, Tyranny, and Ahab (if they even fit in this genre anymore), this year is shaping up to be relatively big for funeral doom. But, of the four, Monotony Fields is the only one that will be getting regular spins from me. Take that as you will.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Adam Palm
September 17th, 2015

Comments

  1. Commented by: Vance

    Awesome review for an awesome band and album, thanks for sharing and giving this band a little limelight.


  2. Commented by: Will "BoneS" Lee

    I will have to look into this release myself. I has well am particular about some funeral doom. Much like you,some I love, some bore me, they just don’t strike a chord, that feeling deep inside.I do own and was pleased with Illusions Play, so this should be a winner (much like what you said ha ha)


  3. Commented by: Ben

    love this album….. S.O.D (ha ha) is one of the few funeral doom acts worthy of repeated spins.


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