I’ve been slightly surprised this year at which albums are sticking with me, and which ones are not. Some of the most tumultuous and conceptual albums of the year are the ones really packing a punch. One of these albums is Faded Anchors of the Past from Sorrowful Land. This record simply sounds terrific.
Sorrowful Land comes to us from Ukraine. This project is a one-man affair, namely Max Molodtsov. He is the mastermind, so to speak, and he brings guest vocalists Pierre Laube, Henrik Ekholm, Stefan Nordström, Kaivan Saraei, and Miguel Santos along for the ride. I’m noticing a trend of one-man doom projects with guest singers; I can’t say that I disapprove, though, because they’ve all been wonderful albums thus far.
The project gives us a dark and beautiful doom metal with plenty of twists and turns, keys and strings, and emotion. Yes, I’d say this album is rather dramatic, not necessarily theatrical, but in a deeply expressive and authentic sort of fashion. You’ll hear both harsh and clean vox, both of which are done extremely well, but you will also hear unceasing melody and layers of rhythm. That was my very first impression.
One of my favorite parts of this sound is the guitar work. Max’s guitars are heavy and dark with a nice bite to them, and he doesn’t overdue them. I would say that his style reminds me of Draconian and Insomnium, both in the fleeting and slow motion licks and also the robust riffs that so often take the music to a higher place. In fact, I think both of the aforementioned bands can be heard as influences in more ways than one here.
Faded Anchors of the Past holds plenty of secrets and attractions. There’s just something about it that appeals to me: that satisfies a desire for texture and contrast. It contains eight tracks, the final one being a delicate piano outro (certainly needed for what comes before), yet the other seven tracks are full of light and darkness, shadows and clarity, soaring heights and murky depths.
The album feels like it has two clear halves. The first four tracks are ambitious and illustrious, especially in the vocals. “As Long As We Breathe” opens with powerful harsh vox and guitars, and it makes the most of these as the foreboding chorus arrives. The title track comes next, and is decidedly more melodic; strings and ambience are the focus on this one, and it sounds fantastic.
The next two are my favorites on the album. “The Cold Gray Fog of Dawn” sets itself apart with great vocalist interactions between Henrik and Stefan, and I love the heaviness and blast beats of the second half. “Small Monuments” follows, and is even better. At over ten minutes, it has time to evolve and grow. The keys and strings add so much value and atmosphere, and the vocals are wonderful.
The second half of the album really reminds me of early Draconian, complete with shadowy voiceovers. There is a certain Romantic and Gothic feeling, too, that becomes more apparent here. Both “As I Behold Them Once Again” and “Where the Sullen Waters Flow” have this style, and they are both dark and exquisite, especially in the guitars. “The Night is Darkening Around Me” takes that sound to new heights, though, with its drama and cinema. I like how it progresses from leering doom licks into hearty riffing and then again into purity and light. The “When Oceans Calm” outro adds so much emotion after the turmoil and darkness of the previous track, beckoning us to pause and consider what we’ve heard.
I really like this album. Sorrowful Land has a multifaceted sound that really speaks to me, and it is full of character and dreams. I like the storytelling aspects and the various loud-quiet contrasts, but it is the in-between moments of rhythm and flow that really make this album work. I hope doom fans will take notice.
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