When Burning Fist interviewed AHAB at Damnation Festival 2014, we semi-jokingly asked if there were bottomless depths of nautical inspiration for them, and sure enough they’ve dredged up another obscure abyssal tome as the backdrop concept for their fourth album of funeral doom.
Even the more colourful cover art hints at somewhat of a drift from the bleak expanses of Melville that was the core of their earlier work to find themselves now on the eerie shores of the work of William Hope Hodgson. Very few will be familiar with this old tale of survival horror, but AHAB weave it into their own epic composition – 6 songs in over an hour.
There’s definitely no rush about them setting about this task, giving plenty of time and scope to building up achingly emotive layers of gentler post metal structures, their undoubted guitar skills channelled into almost classical style. There is more warmth to these passages although tinged with the sorrow that undercurrents the isolation of the novel. The vocals are also very clean, sung in an almost folk lament, which in some ways could be a test of character and eclecticism for those who’ve only come for the devastation. Because sure enough that’s coming, as in contrast to the light we plunge to the funereal depths of dirge that has made them esteemed in this niche genre, with crushingly drawn out riffs and vocals little more than a subterranean rumble.
Somewhat surprisingly though I don’t think this matches the sheer reverberating gloom of their earlier works, as again the cleaner production perhaps restrains the chaos. I don’t think anyone is going to come for the mellower sections and stay for the heavy though, they are uncompromising exercises in crawling, colossal doom. Testament to their flow and writing that you are carried along with the songs and they don’t seem as long as they are, they do inject some almost pace into the riffing of “Red Foam” but only in similar standards to something like a few rounds with NEUROSIS.
And after all the back and forth of melancholic beauty and dread laden grind they close the album with a sad, lilting ballad that fits the theme but is still a challenge to their norms, before some final hammered out chords bring us to a conclusion. It’s an album of evolution of their style, new frontiers reached and conquered, who knows where their voyages will take them next?