Bedemon - Symphony of Shadows
Svart Records
Doom Metal
9 songs (58:52)
Release year: 2012
Bedemon, Svart Records
Reviewed by Charles
Formed in 1973, and now releasing their first full-length album (after several decades of small-scale bootlegs and lengthy periods of inactivity)- must be some kind of record?!

Bedemon can lay claim to being one of the US’s very first doom metal bands. The first, according to Svart Records, the team releasing this, though I suppose they would say that. You might think someone like, say, Pentagram would contest the accolade, and you’d have a point, but in fact the two bands share an interlinked history which fudges the whole issue. Bobby Liebling has recorded with Bedemon in the past, and Geof O’Keefe, who drums on this record, was a founding Pentagram member. That surely imprints a firm idea of what Symphony of Shadows sounds like, and you’d probably be at least half there. It’s definitely got its own thing going on, though.

If this release has some gravitas simply because of the band’s history, much of its poignancy stems from the fact that founding member (and horror writer) Randy Palmer sadly passed away after a car accident in 2002. His guitar playing features here, with the band drafting in a new singer- Craig Junghandel- and a new engineer to finally finish off the work he started. The result is, I have little doubt, something of which he would have been immensely proud. It is a bluesy, varied, and utterly authentic doom metal that anybody who enjoys the more traditional end of this particular spectrum will thoroughly enjoy. But it also has a lot of ideas of its own that makes it far more than a retread of a classic shtick.

What, then, to say? Junghandel’s vocals are a slightly more conventional centrepiece to the band’s sound than Liebling’s would have been, with a more straightforward rock delivery. Still, more conventional than Liebling does not necessarily mean conventional, and as you would expect a from band so inspired by Ozzy-era Black Sabbath, he has that hammy, rough-sounding delivery that is a real trademark of early doom classics. The riffing is, of course, the real star here. So much of this screams 70s doom, like the classic flattened fifth intervals opening Godless- instantly evocative of the ‘figure in black’ standing before Ozzy Osbourne. Lords of Desolation, with its anti-war lyrics and tolling funeral bell sound effects, is high-end Sabbath worship, with great soloing.

There is a bit more to this than simple old-school fun, though. Palmer was a horror nut, and that influence spills over into songs like opener Saviour which balances its trudging doom with spooky gothic melodies very effectively. Other times, the songwriting can be unexpectedly weird and ambitious, suggesting the band were listening with interest as ‘alternative metal’ took over in the 1990s. A strange reference point, but listening to the nine-minute Hopeless it would not surprise me to learn that some participants were quite into Faith No More. Not because it sounds like a Faith No More song- it doesn’t- but just something intangibly off-the-wall in the attitude of the track, which jerks from one idea to another with a pleasing madness. It reaches an immense climax of soaring lead guitar duelling and wonderful mellotron- something you don’t really get with Sabbath or Pentagram. At the other end of the spectrum of 90s influences, the grungily harmonised choruses on D.E.D remind me of Alice in Chains, which is also cool.

But yeah, I labelled this as traditional doom and that’s emphatically what it is- it’s just traditional doom with a lot of songwriting flair. At an hour long, you can dive into it and still be uncovering neat little nooks and crannies within its track listing. A fiercely good album.

Killing Songs :
Saviour, Godless/i>, Hopeless
Charles quoted 90 / 100
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