REVIEW: THE ORDER OF ISRAFEL – “Red Robes”
When his friend told him about Israfel, ex-Church of Misery member Tom Sutton’s eyes widened and he knew he had found a subject from which he could derive the perfect band name.
Israfel: ‘One of the four archangels of Islam, he is the angel of music and will blow his trumpet from a holy rock in Jerusalem to announce the Day of Resurrection.’
When Patrik Andersson, from Doom Dogs, and Sutton decided to form a band with Patrik on the bass and himself on the vocals and guitars, they knew that there could be no better name for the band other than ‘The Order of Israfel’. They found a drummer and a second guitarist, in Hans Lilja and Staffan Bjorck respectively, and released their debut album entitled ‘Wisdom’, which became the darling of the doom metal press and critics all over the world. They were the touted as the ones to fill the void which was created when Cathedral decided to bid adieu.
The Order of Israfel released their second album ‘Red Robes’ as a follow-up to ‘Wisdom’ on May 27 through Napalm Records, with Henrik Jacobson helming his brush to do the artwork for the cover of the album. The album starts with “Staff in the Sand”, which begins with an eerie folk intro that uses the violin, and then progresses into a haunting, doom-influenced riff. Sutton shines with his Ozzy-esque vocals which are supplemented by a riff lifted off the riff-book written by Lord Iommi. The song again goes into a passage that signals impending doom. “The Red Robes” is my favourite track from the album and starts with a staccato-based riff, which goes on for a short while before going back to the drone that was present in the first track. This song has a very lullaby-like passage just before the chorus, which is something I have not heard a doom metal band use before. There is also a haunting choral passage for a short while before the song goes back to the bridge and chorus for the second time.
“In Thrall To the Sorceress” should be noted for its stellar guitar harmonies along with its stoner rock section towards the end. The album changes dynamically in “Swords To The Sky”, which starts with a clean guitar intro that goes into an extremely melodious section with a nice solo. This song is a much needed change of style in the album from the first three songs. The same texture continues with “Von Sturmer”, but it changes in the middle to a very stoner rock-inspired passage. “Fallen Children” is a completely acoustic track and very folksy in nature. “A Shadow In The Hills” has a very Metallica-meets-Cathedral vibe to it. The album closes with “The Thirst”, which again takes the album back to doom and serves as the perfect closing track to this doom metal masterpiece
With this album, The Order of Israfel they have tried to penetrate the canopy of Cathedral-itis that the press put them under. Sure, this album has got a lot of Cathedral in it, but it also has a pinch of other genres sprayed all over. The tracks “Von Sturmer” and “In Thrall To The Sorceress”, for example, have got shreds of the brand of stoner rock popularized by the likes of Fu Manchu in it. There are also influences of Metallica circa ‘…And Justice For All’. The band sticks to its format of mixing doom with folk, but in the midst of the clean guitar folk passages, I could detect a bit of the Gothenburg melodic death metal sound. The production could have been slightly better as there were times when Sutton’s voice was inaudible and was drowned by the instruments. I also felt that the closing song “The Thirst”, which goes on for about 16 minutes, was monotonous and the band could have added a bit more flavor to the song.
Having alumni of doom metal stalwarts and having the right approach towards story-telling, The Order of Israfel has scored a masterpiece with their second album. Whilst relying on the heavy framework of riffs that Tony Iommi and company founded back in the 70s, and which Bruce Franklin and Dave Chandler propagated in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the band also incorporates an eclectic mix of genres in their music and oscillates between heaviness and acoustic sweetness which is definitely commendable. Let us see what they have in store for their 3rd album.