Sunday, 16 June 2013

Age of Taurus - Desperate Souls of Tortured Times (album review)

For me, Age of Taurus has been part of a wave of traditional doom that I've been standing on the shoreline watching with the binoculars getting bigger and bigger, until all around me start to flee in panic whereas I simply drop what I'm holding, strike a 'Jesus Christ Pose' and enjoy the ride.  For all the confused and headscratching talk on more mainstream metal sites and zines of doom metal 'making a comeback' and tepid announcements of it 'starting to become popular again' and such like it takes good music and strong new bands to even begin to generate a buzz, however low or distant it may be.  Church of Void, Rote Mare, Aniara, Procession, Evangelist (thanks Phil!), not to mention Cardinals Folly and Black Oath, both of whom I've reviewed for Sludgelord (check out the reviews appendix tab), and yes, Age of Taurus build on a solid foundation laid by Argus, Las Cruces, Pale Divine and Gates of Slumber to name a few.  Most of these bands are brand new to me and some of them are brand new period.  This is Age of Taurus' first appearance in over three years (since guitarist / vocalist Toby Wright's original 2010 demo), their first with a full-line up and their debut full-length album.

'Desperate Souls of Tortured Times' did not arrive after three long years without more than its fair share of birth pangs and tribulations.  For one thing the album was pretty much worked out and all written by early 2011 by a then newly minted lineup.  But after a couple of near misses in the terms of personnel changes in the form of guys moving around to different places, the band ultimately solidified its foundation and what promised to be some major shake-ups ended up as only some small tremors.  It was for this reason that the band had to cancel some fairly high profile gigs, much to their own horror.  It was a dark time indeed for the band.

But rays appeared on the horizon like a crown of golden thorns through the gloom, for then came the band's signing with Rise Above, the recording of this album and Age of Taurus playing their asses off in front of live audiences across Europe and yes, even hopping across the pond to play some dates in North America.  Not every band get opportunities like these.  They must be something special, no?

So what was the world waiting so long to hear?

Traditional doom that is as powerful as it is melodic.  Driving rhythms which propel melodic vocals.  Vocals that build momentum by what they reign in as much as by what they unleash.  In the best traditional doom ... er, tradition, Age of Taurus' compositions are well structured affairs with muscular riffs and powerful drums.  As always with Paranoid Hitsophrenic bands, they start with a solid riff and expand on it, speeding and slowing as needed, soloing and incorporating harmonies.

I can't say that Age of Taurus are the most original band in the world, but so much of the appeal of doom and its subgenres is built around bands getting a familiar sound right, without straying too far into well-worn territory.  In that way I can't imagine trad. doom people not digging the hell out of 'Desperate Souls of Tortured Times'.  Again, and as in most trad. doom bands, the vocals stand out above the other elements, but not in a way you might expect.  These aren't the acrobatic and expressive vocals of epic metal.  There's an understatement here that just fits, an overall inoffensiveness that are neither too busy nor lazy.  They hit that perfect Josh Homme point and have a similar tone.

Mostly, Age of Taurus keep things slow and moody especially on "Embrace the Stone", but this album is full of dynamism, within that framework of slow / fast comes some unexpected moments and decisions that are quite satisfying.  This latter song in particular keeps things interesting and fresh and, though the longest cut on the album by about two minutes, holds the listener's attention throughout.  You won't find any long droney or improvised passages on this album, as I've said above this is tightly structured stuff, which should come as no surprise considering how long the band had to wait to record the damn thing.  It's because the band keeps things relatively downtempo for the most part that the songs the band chose to bookend the album with are all the more powerful, fast-paced chuggers.

'Desperate Souls of Tortured Times' is pretty special.  To be honest with you, it sounds a lot more like to confident statement of a veteran band in mid-stride than a debut album from a band finding its niche.  Perhaps that veteran feel comes from the band not setting out to break any molds, rather a strong sense of structure and good taste in influences are the aggregate of this solid foundation.  No, Age of Taurus will not change the way you think about music but they don't need to, they are another reassurance that the best stuff comes in hard and heavy doses of riffs.

Highlights include: "A Rush of Power" and "Embrace the Stone"

Rating: 4/5

1). A Rush of Power (6:03)
2). Sinking City (6:04)
3). Always in the Eye (5:09)
4). Walk With Me, My Queen (6:08)
5). Desperate Souls of Tortured Times (5:18)
6). Embrace the Stone (8:02)
7). The Bull and the Bear (5:10)
Total Run Time: 41:51

Toby Wright - Vocals/Guitar
Alastair Riddell - Guitar
Richard Bruce - Bass
Darius Claydon - Drum
From: London, England

Genre: Traditional Doom

Reminds me of: Anciients, Bedemon, Candlemass, Revelation, Witchsorrow

Release Date: May 27, 2013

Better Reviews:
Ech(((o)))es and Dust
Heavy Planet
Sleeping Shaman
Ave Noctum
Last Rites

Age of Taurus on facebook


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