My Dying Bride – Turn Loose The Swans (1993)
Melodramatic, mournful and morosely morbid, Turn Loose The Swans is a genre-defining masterpiece from a band who have defiantly followed their singular vision since day one.
Bravely, or foolishly depending on your viewpoint, My Dying Bride incorporated the sparse use of violin and piano – often as a substitute for doom metals pre-conditional crushing riffs – to create an atmosphere that draws in like dusk; smothering and sinister and utterly enchanting.
Aaron Stainthorpe’s multifaceted vocals, a macabre carousel of ever alternating deathly growls, spoken word eulogies and disconsolate singing, added a further dimension to My Dying Bride’s unique sound and their dabbling with almost ambient silence- contradicted by pitiless industrialised death/doom – amounted to an experience virtually unparalleled in doom metal history.
Turn Loose The Swans is nigh on perfect and it remains My Dying Bride’s finest moment.
Electric Wizard – Come My Fanatics… (1997)
Let’s face it, doom metal started with Sabbath’s “Black Sabbath” and that song was – and still is – bastard scary (more on that later). 27 years later – drawing on Hammer Horror and the occult as inspiration – Electric Wizard harnessed that same sense of skin-crawling unease through sheer riff force and fog-shrouded breathlessness; creating a waking nightmare that remains arguably unsurpassed in the genre.
Unfathomably slow at times and akin to chewing on the stickiest, sludgiest tobacco for all eternity, Come My Fanatics only offers respite from the agreeable monotony on “Wizard In Black” and “Son Of Nothing”; a welcome break from their austere ghoulishness that still maintains an atmosphere of incredible anxiety.
God-sized riffs and asphyxiating volume neatly sums up Electric Wizard’s sophomore album which seems to drift across a tumultous sea of fuzzy, drug-addled riffs and bass-heavy rumble. Not an easy listen by any means but Come My Fanatics remains a destructive gem from Britain’s high priests of distortion….the horror of doom metal had rightfully returned
Esoteric – The Pernicious Enigma (1997)
Two hours of horrifying funeral doom may sound like the ultimate nightmare but Esoteric’s sophomore album is so claustrophobically, hellishly and diabolically enchanting that it simply must be heard and remains one of the most compelling recordings in British doom metal history.
Released in 1997, these blackened, avant-garde, Brummie experimentalists redefined funeral doom with an unmistakable use of samples – buried deep in their murky low-end sound – to add bottomless layers to their dark and depressing sound.
Breaking this epic down into ‘must-hear’ tracks is fruitless, The Pernicious Enigma needs to be experienced as it was intended and absorbed whole. Our advice, take at least two weeks off work and immerse yourself in this grand and ambitious work of art, you may feel like ending it all by the time you’ve absorbed the entirety of this 2-disc record but at least you’ll be feeling something!
Today’s often vacuous excuse for modern metal doesn’t do that now does it!
Solstice – New Dark Age (1998)
In 1998, precious few bands were attempting to write music so gloriously British, so fundamentally ‘metal’ and so in thrall to the grandeur of doom legends Trouble, Solitude Aeturnus and Messiah Marcolin-fronted Candlemass as Solstice.
Majestically structured and powerfully poignant, tracks such as “Cimmerian Codex” appeared to take the entire history of Great Britain – its politics and its military fascination – and match it with windswept, fog-shrouded landscapes. A Cromwellian conquest in essence that only had one outcome; for a short while Solstice were the new kings of British doom.
Epic doom metal at its finest, Solstice’s New Dark Age channeled the no-fear approach of the new wave of British heavy metal while carving their own niche.
An incredible achievement.
Pagan Altar – Mythical & Magical (2006)
Veterans of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal scene Pagan Altar truly made their impact once they reformed in 2004 and released the magnificent Mythical And Magical in 2008. Fusing core elements of traditional heavy metal with the classic doom metal they themselves pioneered in the early 80’s, Pagan Altar successfully wound back the clock to the glory days of Sabbath, Necromandus and Witchfinder General.
Exhibiting a paganist sound that definitively grounds Mythical And Magical as a British release, Pagan Altar’s fusion of folk and 70’s heavy metal renders the album strangely timeless, resulting in the most warmly organic album on this list; a perfect amalgamation of doom metal’s original sounds.
Bewitching and unashamedly retro, Pagan Altar’s updating of folk staples and classic heavy metal mentality are particularly showcased on the outstanding “Rising Of The Dark Lord” and the alluring “The Cry Of The Banshee”. A time-warp of NWOBHM licks, Ozzy-esque vocals and vintage songwriting (much of Mythical And Magical dates back to the 80’s, so this should comes as no surprise), the artistry on display here is utterly breathtaking.
An insanely underrated album (and band); doom metal simply wouldn’t be doom metal if it wasn’t for Pagan Altar.