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Ahab: The giant

03/08/12  ||  The Duff

Ahab’s third album, a real important one if ever there was; it’s no secret that this band is one of the most important funeral doom bands of the last ten years having released what is supposedly a masterpiece of the sub-genre and a follow-up with what I consider their true crowning achievement of emotion, weight and depth, comprising not just templates of the funeral doom tag but also ingredients synonymous with this German quartet’s brand of maritime-themed music alone.

Well, while thematically we revisit the nautical, this time with the tale of Arthur Gordon Pym, we find a stripped down Ahab focused more on freeform, less engaging music. To cut to the chase, I think this is one of my biggest disappointments in a while. The fact that great bands can release bad albums is something I’ve grown to accept, but when great bands release albums with awesome potential yet fail to pull me fully I’m left frustrated, punching at walls and suffering a loss of libido.

We’re at an exceptional start with something that’d fit nicely on “The Divinity of Oceans”. A classic Ahab mix of rumbling, simple riffs, leads that bleed despair, lush, heavy-hearted cleans and vocals that alternate between crooning and belly-aching. Things are looking good; despite a stripped sound, Ahab sound crushing as ever, but then they follow-up the grandiose with an almost “Blackwater Park”-like clean, drawn-out intro.

You don’t let the listener catch his breath after a track like “Further South”, in my mind, but the given is that after the hypnotic intro, we’re wrenched back into drenching hopelessness and madness. On paper, all sounds well, my problem is the formulaic nature of every track and the overall lack of dynamics. Everything on “The Giant” appears to run a similar course, an almost plodding directionless that takes a while to really bite into.

The production has been stripped down to a mud-fuzz, and the style of doom akin to almost senseless, twisting, hypnotic and more tormented leads as experienced with Esoteric’s “Paragon of Dissonance”, combined with a straightforward, repetitive style most likened to Yob. This makes it a trawling affair of an album to throw yourself into, as it isn’t until persistent listens that the record will take on a shape. It’s as if they’re mixing the lethargic suffocation of their debut with the musically emotional depth of their sophomore, all with less striking riffs and captivating texture.

It’s bizarre after such an enchanting second record, as the album largely comes across as ‘grey’. A befitting colour for doom, evidently, but it sounds to me that in order to develop, Ahab chose to regress. No longer are they so interestingly putting a second guitarist to use, most notably during the clean sections which sound pristine in an almost ‘no-bullshit’ kind of way – in terms of sound and presentation, they couldn’t have distanced themselves more from their past masterpiece; the overall feel is that of a live record, which seems to be all the rage these days.

So, when it all sinks in, yes, “The Giant” is a solid affair, but the doom is quite mediocre despite heftily atmospheric and serving its purpose. All boxes are ticked on the despair scale, it’s simply the music that lets the album down.

7,5

  • Information
  • Released: 2012
  • Label: Napalm Records
  • Website: Ahab MySpace
  • Band
  • Daniel Droste: vocals, guitars, keyboard
  • Chris Hector: guitars
  • Stephan Wandernoth: bass
  • Cornelius Althammer: drums
  • Tracklist
  • 01. Further South
  • 02. Aeons Elapse
  • 03. Deliverance (Shouting at the Dead)
  • 04. Antarctica the Polymorphess
  • 05. Fathoms Deep Below
  • 06. The Giant