February 10, 2020 Godthrymm – Reflections (Album Review)
Prominent UK Doom enclave Godthrymm are set to release their full-length debut, Reflections, on February 14th through Profound Lore Records.
At the risk of clouding expectations, it must be noted the band is made up of Doom Metal royalty whose identities deserve their proper due: Hamish Glencross (lead vocals, guitars), Shaun Taylor-Steels (drums), Rich Mumford (bass), and Chaz Netherwood (guitars). As a member of Vallenfyre—the side project of Paradise Lost heavyweight Gregor Mackintosh—Glencross was afforded a tour of North America, playing with the likes of At the Gates, Converge, and Pallbearer as part of the 2015 Decibel Magazine Tour. It was this last band whose members repeatedly sang to Glencross the praises of his earlier work with My Dying Bride and Solstice, particularly the latter’s epic 1998 work, New Dark Age.
After Vallenfyre ground to a halt, inspired to form a new Doom Metal outfit, Glencross called upon New Dark Age alumnus Netherwood, and the pair recruited Steels, who had played briefly in Solstice with Netherwood before spending close to a decade with Glencross in My Dying Bride. The result was A Grand Reclamation, a four-song EP released in 2018 and helmed by producer Dan Mullins, another former My Dying Bride drummer whose tenure was bookended by Steels.
Within a year, Mumford and Netherwood took leave, with Danny Lambert tapped to handle bass and backing vocals. The refreshed trio recorded Dead in the Studio which, as its name implies, was recorded live in one day and released in 2019. Lambert then departed, leaving Glencross and Steels to record Reflections on their own, hiring “Sasquatch” Bob Crolla to round out the trio afterward. Additionally, Nathan Bailey handled recording and mixing, while the band again relied on Brian D’Agosta for artwork after his work on the two prior EPs.
All these factors in place, comprised of eight tracks spread across nearly an hour, Reflections represents a bold step forward for the band compared to its earlier work. Three of the tracks are taken from those recordings—”We Are the Dead” and “Cursed Are the Many” from Dead in the Studio, while “The Grand Reclamation” is a re-recording of the title track from the band’s recording debut. The inclusion of these prior tracks demonstrates how far the band has matured in just a few short years. Dead in the Studio and A Grand Reclamation are raw, almost effortless recordings, with the band throwing their chops and influences together, while Reflections shows a poise and composition to the tracks, as if the band spent two brisk, effective EPs wandering for a specific identity within the greater Doom Metal genre.
As an opener, the morose melodic Doom of “Monsters Lurk Herein” fits the genre’s origins with nods toward Black Sabbath and Candlemass, starting with an eerily quiet guitar progression that builds into a stunning death march, almost a battle cry. Listening carefully, it seems some female vocals pepper this track; these guests re-appear later, in a much deeper mix, within the choruses of “Cursed Are the Many.” Only slightly more upbeat than its predecessor, “Among the Exalted” makes up for the trace amount of sadness dissipated by its quickening pace by reaching higher (and, as such, lower) points of emotion on guitar.
“We Are the Dead” harkens back to the crushing choral vocals stylings of Saint Vitus. In this song’s earlier incarnation on Dead in the Studio, the riffs were closer to the material Glencross filed with My Dying Bride, and also featured more prominent backing vocals from then-bassist Danny Lambert; here, the riff broods at a lower octave, and Glencross records his own backing vocal efforts, replete with a few subtle but effective echo effects. “The Sea As My Grave” offers grimy chord changes mixed with sparse vocal whispers; its accompanying video was filmed during the band’s August 2019 appearance at the Frietrock Metal Rock Fest in Belgium, and shows the band as an oddly energetic trio, considering the source material, particularly the softer vocal portions.
After nearly five minutes slow-paced doom, “The Light of You” explodes into an upbeat crescendo, as if the members of Godthrymm wanted to remind listeners that the dragging gait of the album is a choice, not a necessity—this band can rock loud and fast as needed. However, the pace quickly dissipates as “The Grand Reclamation” takes the forefront. Drinking deeply from the earliest work by Black Sabbath, “The Grand Reclamation” brings the patented vibrato into play, but not overtly so, and Glencross does at least half the work with his voice to make the effect in this re-recorded version. Overall, this track contains the most emphatic microphone work from Glencross; the initial recording for A Grand Reclamation had an even more prominent vocal mix, but here the settings appear to be more in line with the vocals given equal footing rather than overbearing presence. As with the track’s predecessor, the song enters a brisk denouement before an equally sudden close.
Just to erase any doubt as to the work history of the band members, “Chasmic Sorrows” fulfills its title by delivering five minutes’ worth of riffs and emotions that force even the heartiest listeners to fall to their knees in agony. No vocals are necessary here, as the guitars slowly decimate all remaining shreds of hope and dignity. Reflections has a strong, healthy mix of older influences—such as Sabbath, Candlemass, and Celtic Frost; even the rockier influences of Pentagram can be heard—while also pulling from the vast resumes of all parties involved. The end result is still a crisp, fresh look on the Doom Metal genre, with Glencross capably mining gloom from the deep depths of despair and Steels providing a dark, steady cadence. Godthrymm prove they are much more than the sum of their parts, and that is why Cryptic Rock gives Reflections 4 out of 5 stars.