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When Colors Fade Away

M-Theory Audio (2017)
Rating: 9.5/10

Former Trouble frontman Eric Wagner is back with more moroseness as his bunch of creepy cronies – namely Blackfinger – once again haunt our dreams with a soundtrack of authentic aching doom.

Although we must continually bemoan the absence of Trouble, Wagner’s projects The Skull and Blackfinger have provided us with more than enough ebony flesh to chew on, and boy does When Colors Fade Away deliver in the dismal stakes.

Imagine pallid autumn skies, carpets of crisp red leaves and an unnerving air with a scent of bonfire smoke to truly capture the essence of this monstrous ethereal platter. Matthew Tuite and Terry Weston’s guitars groan like the sound of a mighty portcullis being lifted to enable a grim procession of ghouls to take to the fields. Meanwhile, David Snyder’s drums roll like immense thunder clouds, their claps and peels causing electrical friction with the bass of Matthew Cross. It’s bone-shuddering, coffin-creaking, soul-breaking stuff – never cumbersome, just always mesmeric, magical and forever spiralling like wisps of grey smoke smouldering from bonfires.

It’s quite funny how most “doom metal” albums tend to clock in at around ten years too long and feature songs that aren’t much shorter, but the nine tracks on this sophomore opus barely reach 40 minutes, leaving us gagging for more.

The title track heaves its gargantuan arse out of its coffin and into the courtyard, its slimy back bubbling with those cool, cavorting bass dribbles. The guitars give off such a grey waft. However, they don’t intend to crush, but almost caress the ears like some smoky veil that slowly leaks into the mind and coats the matter with poison. Wagner’s bleak narration is enough to send a shudder through the most haunted of houses. His mournful, stony-faced tones are so commanding; joyless but never dull as the melodies trickle into view like autumnal sun beams keen to dapple those orange leaves that have yet to fall.

‘Can I Get A Witness’ judders with more urgency, but soon shifts into a delightful psychedelic tickle. Wagner’s subtle voice caresses the bubbles and ticks of the soundtrack behind him until that chorus where the band ups into an earthy groove metal boogie – incredible and infectious stuff.

‘All My Sorrow’ emerges as funky doom… if there is a sort of thing?! The bass is once again catchy as hell. Wagner becomes the master commander of creepiness again, the lyrics so simple yet etched with despair as his stormy tone. One can feel the sombreness leaking into the air as the black chords of doom cascade like molten ash into the eyes.

And the doomscapades keep coming; black liquid frothing from the sink and bones turning to dust as the aching ‘My Old Soul’ heaves, wheezes and aches into view like some terrible presence only previously half-hinted. Blackfinger literally blow away anything else remotely doom metal associated that has emerged in the last 20 years. Forget all this occult-rock tripe, ‘My Old Soul’ is surely the greatest expression of doom metal to have been released for quite some time. “Old King Cole was a very old soul” sighs Wagner to a nodding rhythm section of woe. It’s probably the best track on the album, but then again it’s difficult to look beyond the ghoulish groove of ‘Afternow’ which is probably the most Trouble-esque tune on the record with Wagner wailing like a sorrow-drenched Robert Plant.

Elsewhere, there’s the monolithic uprising of ‘Crossing The River Turmoil’, the defter sighs of ‘Beside Still Water’ with its trickles of apprehension, and the equally subtle ‘Waiting For The Sun’ – a joyous and yet equally lonesome ballad if there ever was one. The album finishes with the groovier ‘Till We Meet Again’, a classic doom rocker where Wagner groans, “I feel like I’ve been here before”. And although we sort of knew what to expect, once again Wagner and his disciples of doom have conjured up a tasty feast of black magic. The streams of bass which litter this track are hypnotic, as are the rattling drums of gloom coupled with the smoggy riffs.

When Colors Fade Away is very likely the album of the year, and certainly one of the finest examples of genuine doom metal I’ve heard since the unintentional inception of the genre all those years ago with a band known as Black Sabbath. While many bands and their albums within the genre literally drain the soul through boredom, Blackfinger evoke wondrous atmospheres and aren’t tainted by any falsities within the genre. Instead, Wagner and co. seem without peers; a timeless entity which forever lurks by the graveside and beckons you to the casket. How can you not give in?

Neil Arnold

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