The Giant

Written by: EW on 07/07/2012 20:01:03

Oh boy I've been looking forward to this one, the third album from German 'nautic' funeral doomsters Ahab, "The Giant". I fucking love both "The Call of the Wretched Sea" and "The Divinity Of Oceans" for their unique take on the extreme doom narrative, which in turn encouraged me to read the tomes which so inspired them, 'Moby Dick' and the harrowing 'Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex'. Truly I am astounded at every listen by how the trauma and tragedy of those tales, fictional and non-fictional alike, have been so expertly translated into musical form by the band, honestly believing both those albums are worthy of a proper academic analysis by someone far more intelligent and qualified than I for their portrayal of the written word into original music. Alas, you're stuck with me until then and an album that sees Ahab refine their crushing weight to harness greater melody and clean vocal than before as they take on Edgar Allan Poe's novel "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym on Nantucket".

The slow build-up to opener "Further South" heralds the start of what I would classify greater sensitivity in their writing; the almighty riffs which enveloped you through previous voyages are still here aplenty but more liberally spread amongst islands of clean reverb guitar and mellow, Swallow the Sun-like gloominess. Witness the bridge into Daniel Droste's clean vocals in "Antarctica the Polymorphess" for proof that even a more refined Ahab does not necessarily mean one scaling back on the bleakness. "Aeons Elapse" again starts slowly with atmospherically reverberating guitar and whispered vocals segueing into a gigantic wave of doom, which slowly lumbers onwards and downwards. It's path is interspersed with chinks of light but it's foreboding is not a par with the likes of "Old Thunder" or "The Divinity of Oceans" we have witnessed and heard before. "Fathoms Blue Deep" is perhaps the first instance of Ahab meandering on without purposeful direction; after an introduction which brings to mind a doomed version of some old Metallica intros it never quite finds it's direction in the 9 minutes afforded it, despite some pleasant interplay between Droste's clean vocals mid-way through and the somber lead work of Chris Hector.

Title track and closer "The Giant" however begins more purposefully and succeeds in upping the tension where periods of the previous 50 minutes had lost the lead. Layered vocals give way to a fantastically desperate and longing wail from Droste whose clean vocals have a revelatory feel to them akin to how Mikael Akerfeldt slowed noticed this quality in his over the years with Opeth, before a slow build-up in tension through the middle of the song's ten minutes concludes with a symbol of Ahab's increased willingness to experiment as a crescendo of Neurosis-influenced riffing brings the album to a dramatic end. Production qualities on "The Giant" are on bigger and brighter than those on "The Divinity of Oceans" which teamed with a cleaner guitar sound helps generate an atmosphere less down-trodden and miserable than 2009's masterpeice, perhaps more in line with the standard templates of the funeral doom genre they have done so greatly for in recent times.

Whether in keeping with the tone of "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym on Nantucket" or simply a natural progression of their sound, "The Giant" does not harbour the same dread and despair of Ahab's previous efforts but in itself is still a great record. It is one that further cements Ahab's name as the leading light in the very bleak world of funeral doom, confirming their ability to add great musical texture to the works of classic novels, the feat in which I exhort for greater recognition on their behalf.


Download: Antarctica the Polymorphess, The Giant
For The Fans Of: Mourning Beloveth, Mournful Congregation
Listen: Myspace

Release date: 25.05.2012
Napalm Records

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