Ahab - The Coral Tombs
Napalm Records
7 songs (1:06:16)
Release year: 2023
Official Bandcamp, Napalm Records
Reviewed by Goat
Album of the month

Based conceptually around Jules Vernes' sea-fi classic Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, German doomsters Ahab return for only their fifth full-length since forming in 2004. And as with each of their albums before, this is a weighty, aqua-drenched offering that is something of a mini-voyage to experience, even with the knowledge that at just over 66 minutes' length this is the shortest Ahab opus to date! The fact that it's taken a long eight years for The Coral Tombs to emerge after 2015's The Boats of The Glen Carrig, with its slightly divisive post-rock influences, should suggest a well-crafted album from the band which is easily borne out on even initial listens. Until Ahab run out of nautical tales to mine for inspiration and are reduced to making concept albums about, for example, Will Smith-starring mafia parody Shark Tale (2004) they're sure to impress, particularly for their solid grasp of what makes good (funeral) doom.

There, of course, is where the more hard-hearted doom fans will start arguments; are Ahab still funeral doom, thanks to the progressive elements and lack of truly funereal moments? Were they ever? Seasoned Ahabists will doubtless prefer the earlier, gnarlier material from the band as opposed to more progressive-tinged sea shanties yet all doombahs will surely admit that this still packs a punch - the opening Prof. Arronax' Descent into the Vast Oceans has an almost blackened flurry of screams (thanks to a vocal guest spot from Ultha's Chris Noir) and rumbling metal before sliding into ambience and clean, emotive singing from guitarist and keyboardist Daniel Droste, with his finest performance yet. It has all the weight, physical and emotional, that we have come to expect from this band and genre, particularly once his voice is joined by those downright epic doom riffs, rising and falling like waves.

As ever, the guitarwork is simply phenomenal here, solidly melancholic and yearning melodies twisted around rock-solid doom riffs like barnacles on wood. The way the creeping death-doom of Colossus of the Liquid Graves stomps along infectiously before drifting off into the depths is masterful, the lead guitar humming along eerily and contrasting wonderfully with Droste's dry, nearly croaking growls. And that leads on to the nauseously aquatic Mobilis in Mobili, grandiose and powerful doom riffs leading again to scurrying rumbles, a rather beautiful mid-track melodic interlude as ominous as it is pretty before Nemo's chillingly misanthropic goals begin to be revealed. You can point to few faults thus far, the biggest flaw to these ears being the way tracks end rather abruptly, yet nothing is present that would seriously ruin enjoyment of the album, and this is before The Coral Tombs hits its peak!

Four ten-minute-plus pieces in a row follow, beginning with the most post-metallic song present, the cinematic The Sea as a Desert, which opens with almost Spaghetti Western-flavoured guitar and builds into a mournful, near-psychedelic dirge in the best of ways. The title track is probably the lightest in terms of metallic heaviness, though still packs a powerfully melancholic punch thanks to its sparse melodies, which verge on the jazzy at points. Conversely, Ægri Somnia is arguably the heaviest thanks to the death metal infused pounding riffage, yet it fades in comparison to closer The Maelstrom, where the clean vocals truly come into their own and the added vocals of guest Greg Chandler (Esoteric, of course) help push things to an intense conclusion. Compared to the original novel, which some would say ends a little anticlimatically as (spoiler alert!) Arronax and his companions escape the Nautilus and leave Nemo to an unnamed fate, The Coral Tombs does well to not only finish the album compellingly, but also to channel a funeral doom ending to an album which flirts with the style but doesn't always commit to it. Time for a re-reading of a childhood favourite, obviously alongside many relistens to a more than superb album that matches the novel's tone and atmosphere while proving Ahab are still a name to worship in the doom (aqua)sphere.

Killing Songs :
Prof Arronax' Descent into the Vast Oceans, The Sea as a Desert, The Coral Tombs, The Maelstrom
Goat quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Ahab that we have reviewed:
Ahab - The Boats of the Glen Carrig reviewed by Andy and quoted 88 / 100
Ahab - The Giant reviewed by Jaime and quoted 91 / 100
Ahab - The Divinity of Oceans reviewed by Charles and quoted 78 / 100
0 readers voted
You did not vote yet.
Vote now

There are 1 replies to this review. Last one on Sat Feb 25, 2023 9:00 pm
View and Post comments