10 Jul 2017

Doomocracy - Visions & Creatures of Imagination (Steel Gallery Records - 2017)

Doomocracy from Greece deals out a brand of very melodic, and somewhat progressive, doom metal with a lot of eastern-sounding melodies and atmospheric keyboards. "Visions & Creatures of Imagination" is a step-up from their debut in 2014 when it comes to song writing and shows promising development for the future.

I own Doomocracy's debut "The End is Written" on both CD and on a signed LP that I proudly display even if it was quite badly damaged while shipping. I always prefer to own an LP if available, and only bought the CD because no vinyl was available at the time. This time however I am waiting for the vinyl to release as it was announced at the same time as the rest of the versions. My digital copy has had serve as a stand-in though as I could not wait to hear if "Visions & Creatures of Imagination" has taken the band on the path I desired, hoping for more memorable songs rather than a few that stand out among the many.

Opening track "Ghosts of the Past" sets the bar really high for the rest of the album, immediately showing which type of melodic riffing we can expect from the band. The song features incredibly heavy drumming from Minas Vasilakis, who throws in rapid kick-bursts leading into the hits, creating that dragging sensation while still being completely on point. Michael Stavrakakis's vocals soar above the very rhythmisized riffing, gluing it together with long notes and languished vocal melodies. This is a very catchy number, with each riff being "hummable" and memorable and I can imagine singing along with the "aah-aah" part in the middle of the song at live shows. To my knowledge the track features keyboards arranged by Miguel Robaina (ex-Memento Mori), either way they add a lot of atmosphere to it.

"Lucid Plains of Ra" dives even deeper into the experimental rhythms and progressive realms after some oriental instruments has set the tone of the track. The hi-hat work is extremely well done and the kicks are well coordinated along with the bass lines in the intro. Michael offers shorter vocal lines in the verses here, rather enhancing the unorthodox rhythms than gluing it together as with the opener. It's all very precisely played and doesn't get so progressive that it's hard getting into or to enjoy, a very thin line that has to balanced between showing off your skills and creating enjoyable music instead of masturbatory self-indulgence. The track climaxes at the four minute mark where a well executed falsetto scream leads into the solo, and what a solo it is! If guitarist Harry Dokos or Angelos Tzanis is responsible I do not know, but the solos on this album are fantastic, carefully balancing the same thin line as just described above.

Opening with a heavy break interlude with harmonized guitar leads "My Bane" sounds like something you could have found on the last album by Solitude Aeturnus in 2006, the same type of leads and rhythms that I associate with the band are used here. The verses take a step back to simpler, chugging guitars. A welcome break from the tracks that have demanded more from the listener, with less layers to the music you get a chance to lean back and nod along to the riffs. Doomocracy makes sure you don't loose focus for too long though, as they make a point of fooling you that the song is over before once again diving into chorus a final time. Overall a simpler track, but no less a great one.

Doomocracy decides to put the "epic" into "epic doom metal" with the intro of "One with Pain", which completely crushes the listener under the weight of planet-sized meteors crashing into the earth only to lead into a freight train of a double bass riff. This track reaches over eight minutes and fits its demeanor of anguish just right. The chorus riff is slow and heavy, with a unison attack of all instruments. The lyrics does however rhyme in a way that feels a bit shoehorned, but the overall power of the chorus is not lost. After a short clean interlude, the track leads into another of my favorite solos on the album. The outro/final chorus of this track takes two minutes to get through before it fades out... as already stated: Epic.

"Guardian Within" somewhat of a power metal-feel to it, with mid-temp galloping guitars and many melodies thrown in. Once again the lyrics rhyme in a way that makes me feel a bit uneasy though. I can imagine that this track would work well live as it is rather short (for doom metal) and shakes things up a bit, and putting it here after the longest track on the album was the right choice. It is however the most skippable track on the album, one has to be right?

Title track "Visions & Creatures of Imagination" opens strongly with Doomocracy demonstrating all that I have previously commended them for, also with a church organ adding to the weight of the riff. Once again they make use of interesting rhythms, this time much heavier though with the guitars and drums sounding like they're limping forward as if wounded while the vocals soar above. Michael seem to have gained more control over his voice since the bands debut, and nowhere is it better showed off than in this track. The bridge quickly jumps into more up-beat drums before a chorus worthy of a title track. Worth mentioning is that someone made the wise decision to dust of their wah-wah pedal for solo as well, which is done way too little dese days.

"Trinity of Fates" takes a more classic approach to doom metal, with a dead heavy main riff that is later stripped down to the bone once the vocals enter, only to reappear again later. The snare drum patters on a marching beat in the background, where the dynamics between a hard hit and the softest strokes well audible and shows that Minas has a good ear this kind of playing. As well as that the production has had to have this in mind while mixing the drums. After all, conveying emotion from just a snare drum would be hard if it was triggered or compressed to oblivion. The chorus is delivered with an admirable passion, and is probably one of my favorites on the album. The song ends way before I am finished listening to it, meaning that I usually have to give it another spin before moving onward to the last track.

Closing the album is "A Taste of Absinthe" and finally bassist Manolis Sx gets some room, albeit for a short while. I can't seem to say enough that the bass should be mixed louder in almost all albums released these days, especially if you have such a nice tone as Manolis has here. I have had a different experience with the bass though where it is much louder on certain sound systems, for example in my car, rather than in my headphones. It's always a hard thing to get mixes to sound the same in different systems. This is a dreamy track which features a lot tom-work from the drums, the vocals are very soft and the bass plays a couple of leads in the background before the somber chorus kicks in. "Visions & Creatures of Imagination" does not end with a bang even if this final track picks up the tempo later in the middle. It rather slowly drifts away, and I guess that was what they were going for, to create and album that you should best enjoy while sitting down and having a proper and dedicated listen. If so they succeeded even though I think "Trinity of Fates" would have been a more effective finish.

When you spit out the term "epic doom metal" most people will immediately think of the mighty Candlemass, and rightfully so. Doomocracy however has taken somewhat of their own twist on the genre to revitalize it and avoid becoming a full-on clone. Taking a few tricks from bands like Tad Morose and maybe Savatage they have created something that sounds like Doomocracy. For the sake of this review I have listened extra closely to the album, and it has actually grown from the process as there are many layers to the music to explore, rather than become boring after multiple spins. "Visions & Creatures of Imagination" demands a lot from the listener, especially with a playing time of more than fifty minutes, but it is worth it even if a small amount of fat could be trimmed off. I sure do hope that Doomocracy does not end up as overlooked as the bands that seem to have inspired them, I for one will be buying the LP once it is available. Depending on how the album holds it's own during the months to come, this is a strong contender for the end of the year lists. "Visions & Creatures of Imagination" earns 7,8/10

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