REVIEW: SHAPE OF DESPAIR – “Return To The Void”
A frigid gloom lurks within our world as we know it. As it roams, it manifests a heavy feeling within the hearts of the souls that it strikes; all of this is in vain.
Shape of Despair returns from a seven-year-long journey of solitude through the Nordic winter, and they bring along with themselves the album that embodies that feeling and shapes it into sound. ‘Return to the Void’ is an album that is pleasing to hear, but carries weight too heavy to not be acknowledged.
Doom Metallers know that as much it remains musically and thematically the same, the introduction of each new album brings forth a wave of new phenomena for the soul to experience and that in itself makes the genre one of the most introspective soundscapes to listen to in the world of Metal.
The band has a long career that began along with its many contemporaries (Darkthrone, Burzum, Unholy) and in pursuit of a sound-alike to theirs. However, it was only after pursuing that sound that the band realized it need a far more appropriate vessel to channel its narrative and better encapsulate the range of emotions and feelings it intended to express. Thus, Funeral Doom was born, and the band bears the torch that leads us through the labyrinth of sorrow that humanity is capable of experiencing.
While the band has gone through fairly reasonable changes in their line-up, Jarno Salomaa (guitars and keyboards, founding member), Tomi Ullgren (guitars), Sami Uusitalo (bass), Samu Ruotsalainen (drums), and Natalie Koskinen and Henri Koivula (vocals) are responsible for delivering the next musical endeavor. The six-track album spreads out across fifty-seven minutes of playtime, which provides a good three minutes at the end of the hour to summarize the lessons of your introspective solitude.
The production of the album was executed by the band as well, with Jarno, Samu, and Henri taking up the sound engineering and Samu further taking the mixing at Beat Domination Studio. The final result is a soundscape that augments the dread etched into the compositions, covered in droning rhythms supporting the vocals and suspenseful orchestration that lingers in the distance like the regrets of a lifetime. Arguably it is only slow, down-tempo orchestrations like the ones delivered in the album that is capable of revealing an individual’s deepest despairs to themselves; as if one were to sit in front of a mirror and examine the blurred silhouette of their darkness. This way, the band truly lives up to the name they have chosen for themselves.
Not everything here is shrouded in eternal melancholy. Sections of the songs that involve Natalie’s vocals, such as in the title track and “Reflection in Slow Time” ushers in a sense of ease between it all; as to how an ephemeral thought strikes now and then, that there is value in strife, depth in the experience of sorrow and beauty in the finiteness of it all.
All should one choose to acknowledge it. And in the event one chooses to, the album is a timeless, valuable medium that will facilitate the navigation of it. ‘Return to the Void’ is an album that reflects back to the listener the aspects and parts of humanity that are too often consciously ignored in today’s reality, and therefore, proves itself to be an experience remembered keenly by the people that are engaged in Doom Metal. But more importantly, it is definitely an experience that is commendable for the listeners that choose to undertake it.