Shores of Null
Beyond the Shores (On Death and Dying)

Some three years have elapsed since we last heard from rising Italian crew Shores of Null. Following a confident, hook-laden debut in 2014’s Quiescence, the band’s 2017 follow-up, Black Drapes for Tomorrow, while solid, struggled to capitalise on their impressive first act. Nevertheless, Shores of Null possess an intriguing sound, a brooding mix of melancholic doom and melodic death, bolstered by the powerhouse vocals of frontman Davide Straccione. Now as the year draws to a close, Shores of Null return with their third LP, entitled Beyond the Shores (On Death and Dying). Can Shores of Null make good on their obvious potential on their third LP?

Doubling down on the doomier equation of their sound, Shores of Null take an ambitious route on their latest opus, a one track concept album based on the five stages of grief, developed by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. The heavy subject matter is immediately evident in the dreary soundscapes and heavy blanket of melancholy that shadows the album’s cohesive 38-minute run-time. The one track album is always a risky endeavour, so kudos to the band for taking on such a momentous challenge and managing to pull it off in generally fine style. Beyond the Shores (On Death and Dying) marks a pleasing return to form, following their slightly underwhelming sophomore album.

To assist in fulfilling their magnum opus and ambitious vision, Shores of Null enlisted some helping hands to bring the project to fruition. Swallow the Sun’s Mikko Kotamäki provides a typically strong and emotive array of heavier vocal styles, Thomas A.G. Jensen (Saturnus) likewise contributes vocals, while Inno’s Elisabetta Marchetti lends further vocal diversity and fragile beauty to the gloomy atmosphere and challenging lyrical themes. Meanwhile, Straccione’s own solid mid-ranged growls and excellent cleans more than hold their own. The different vocal counterpoints serve to add welcome dynamics and emotional resonance to match the album’s lofty musical ambition, forming an imposing vocal arsenal. For instance, Marchetti’s sublime voice possesses a spinechilling beauty, while the deeper growls cut an imposing weight upon the funeral march of the album’s slower, crushing moments. Some of the material lurches in an almost funeral doom crawl, yet it is the skilful dynamic shifts and livelier moments that ensure the album never gets tied down in sluggishness or repetition.

Various other guests provide telling support roles and instrumental depth, via the carefully integrated inclusion of piano, violin, and double bass, forming a satisfyingly rich musical foundation. Overall, the pacing and cohesion of the album is extremely well crafted, proving a consistently gripping, highly emotive, albeit bleak experience of death-doom. Bleak, fragile melodies are undercut with crushing moments of genuine heft, massively gloomy, heavy riffs proving the perfect foil to the mournful tones and frigid atmosphere of the album. There are no major faults, only minor nit-picks which do not greatly detract from a first rate platter. Firstly, this is not an easy listen, both due to the harrowing mood and weighty length, a point that may deter some listeners. Sonically, feel the album would benefit from a warmer, more dynamic production and master to really make things pop. However the serviceable production is by no means a deal breaker. Lastly, while I mostly cannot knock the pacing of the marathon arrangement, careful trimming of the fat, such as the extended stormy soundscapes at the conclusion, may have tightened up the finished product.

Shores of Null rolled the dice with Beyond the Shores (On Death and Dying) and delivered in a big fucking way. Rebounding from a slight sophomore slump, Shores of Null have crafted something special; a heart-wrenchingly emotive and beautiful journey of sorrow, anguish, pain, and acceptance. Beyond the Shores (On Death and Dying) is a splendidly sombre, brilliantly written opus of commanding death-doom that demands attention.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
December 23rd, 2020


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