There must be something in the cold winds and overcast skies of Chicago that is conducive to doom metal. Coven unwittingly kick-started the genre in the late 60s, while Trouble proved that slow and steady won the race, even as everyone around them was trying to play faster than everyone else during the emergence of thrash in the early 80s. With eleven albums under their belt over nearly a quarter century, Novembers Doom has not only taken the torch, they never stopped running with it.
Nobody can accuse them of running in place on Nephilim Grove. The album is the band’s first on Prophecy Productions after half a dozen releases for The End. Possibly, the new beginning gave the band license to incorporate new ideas into their patented death doom. Fortunately all of these new flourishes are resoundingly successful.
The title track is like a gothic spire twisting through a dense atmosphere, haunting before building up to a fantastic, riffing crescendo. “What We Become,” with its sonorous chorus “one day you’ll love me like you used to” is a romantic song, though keeping in the doom tradition, it is more about love lost. It’s easily the most beautiful song Novembers Doom ever penned. It, along with “The Clearing Blind” is available as a “Matte Variant” on the deluxe, two-CD edition, and they make the extra investment worth it: The band adds lilting piano and strings to both songs, lending melodramatic heft to the new renditions.
There’s more than enough classic Novembers Doom as well, most notably the soaring, death metal melancholy of “Adagio,” the speed-dirge of “The Witness Marks,” and album-closer “The Obelus,” a furious, thundering attack that may be the fastest track ever from the doomsters, yet it still fits perfectly into their canon.
Nephilim Grove may serve to be a transition album, as the band expands its sound even more in the future. Time will be the judge of that, but even if not, it’s a superb release befitting the death doom legends.