God, it must be grim living in Norway if the latest release from To Cast a Shadow is anything to go by. I used to think that being in a band, playing to thousands of adoring fans would be a brilliant thing, but clearly not if you’re a member of To Cast a Shadow. I’m being facetious but only because this latest release is an undeniably miserable and often harrowing release: Def Leppard it resolutely is not.
Don’t let my cynicism put you off: this is doom/goth metal of a fine vintage. There’s plenty of the leitmotifs of this metal sub-genre to keep you entranced and intrigued. Soaring and haunting vocals; the occasional guttural death growl, punchy riffage all wrapped in a soaring epic soundscape.
Opening track ‘Tormented’ gives you a sense of the unfolding musical drama that the band have to offer; a massive riff backed by pummelling drums lead the listener into a swirling maelstrom of agonised vocals. It is a dramatic and effective statement of intent. ‘Nightfall’ has a lovely, almost gossamer light melody and refrain. ‘Ocean’s Apart’ is a stand-out track: on first listen, it does little more than tick all the right boxes that you want from a doom metal track; on repeated listening, its power and, I’m sure they wont thank me for this, genuine charm shines through.
‘The Answer’, a track that begins initially reflective and solemnly soon opens to become a mini- epic all of its own and will doubtless become a fan favourite once added to their live setlist. It’s probably the best exposition of the bands talents and, for me, the stand-out track on a solid record that, whilst not setting new paradigms, certainly ploughs a solid field.
To Cast a Shadow have some clear heritage and influence. There’s a little bit of My Dying Bride here, a portion of Paradise Lost there and even some Tool seeping through the band’s musicality. The second album-in this instance, one that their label Kolony Records have clearly invested in- is often a tricky one. It’s a cliché of the music business that artists, desperate to expand their musical horizons after making a splash with their debut efforts often find themselves getting stuck in the quagmire of over complicating their oeuvre and leaving a fan base often bewildered and bemused.
Fans of To Cast a Shadow need have no fears with the latest offering from the Norwegian outfit: it does exactly what you expect. “In Memory Of” has that dynamic miserabilism with a soupçon of overblown drama and deep, dark romantic songs that hit the right side of melodrama without falling into the soup of parody and ridicule.There’s a proper sense of ambition on this record; an open and dynamic production, an excellent and evocative artwork capture a band who have found their feet well. I’m not a goth metal addict but, if you are, you’re going to lap this up with a vengeance.