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The Order Of Israfel - "The Red Robes" (CD)

The Order Of Israfel - "The Red Robes" CD cover image

"The Red Robes" track listing:

1. Staff In The Sand
2. The Red Robes
3. In Thrall To The Sorceress
4. Swords To The Sky
5. Von Sturmer (see music video here)
6. Fallen Children
7. A Shadow In The Hills
8. The Thirst

Reviewed by on June 1, 2016

"'Red Robes' continues the precise direction and nature 'Wisdom' – step three in a field sobriety test where walking the line is the difference between stoner doom (sans all the fuzz) and Candlemass."

Doom is a double edged sword. It seems each week a fresh “new crop” of stoner style doom acts get signed at the same time a secondary crop of 10 “fresh takes on 70’s hard rock” get added to labels at the same unprecedented pace. Understandably, styles are cyclical. I guess for the past couple of years there has been an incredible high demand for anything that remotely sounds like Sabbath or Ghost. Unfortunately, at the current pace the chances you will find them all as unique as advertised is about 10,000 to 1.

However, if doom styles of metal are capable of one thing each year, you can always count on at least one to rise from the crop to steal a spot in the top albums, and its usually from the land where doom thrives: Sweden. In 2014, Gothenburg’s The Order of Israfel vomited forth the ridiculously amazing “Wisdom,” which combined pure Swedish doom with the production, song writing, and eeriness of Sabbath in such a way that it stood out, leaving hundreds of other bands behind.

So what is so special about The Order of Israfel? In terms of presenting something new and different…there is absolutely nothing. However, in terms of portraying a modern interpretation of Sabbath which perfectly captures that creepy eerie side – this band is head and shoulders above the rest. Most of this is attributed to both the riffs and quirky vocal style of one Tom Sutton. When “Wisdom” was released there was a song that was the sum of all the strengths of what The Order Of Israfel had to offer: “The Noctuus.” That song was the perfect machination of Swedish epic doom and Sabbath, but complete with the creepy drugged out Ozzy vocals a la Sutton. If this sounds like the same old thing to you, then perhaps your interests lie elsewhere.

The perfect union of old styles and stellar production are what awaits forward thinkers with a keen interest in keeping a toe dipped in the past. To be fair, Sutton on vocals was not the original intention. However, to be honest, it was the best decision the band made. Just to clarify, Sutton is by no means a good vocalist, if you grade your favorite vocals based on a Fabio Lione scale, where classical training and pitch perfect are the goals. It is precisely this dreary, quirky completely off key nature that makes Tom not only a perfect fit, but absolutely essential for the dynamic of the sound. If Mats Leven fronted The Order of Israfel, the entire dynamic of the band would change and so would its most distinctive feature.

Using “Wisdom” as the band’s only benchmark, how did “Red Robes” fare? For one, the element of surprise and luster of expectations are gone. "Red Robes" continues the precise direction and nature "Wisdom" – step three in a field sobriety test where walking the line is the difference between stoner doom (sans all the fuzz) and Candlemass. With little wiggle room for progression (unapologetically), there might be a tiny bit less that grabs you here.

With the veil of surprise two years removed, the success of “Red Robes” comes down to whether fans care enough for the quirky style to not care if it remains absolutely the same. For your author, The Order of Israfel is perfect the way they are, quirks and all. It shows in tracks like the groove smacking heaviness of “In Thrall to the Sorceress,” the ultra-creepy sampled intro and blasting riffs of the album’s fastest number “A Shadow in the Hills” and the 15+ minute epic (albeit a bit droning) “The Thirst.” Listeners with short attention spans could get a bit lost in some of the lengthy tracks like “Staff in the Sand” and “Swords to the Sky,” with the former much stronger compared to the latter.

The Order of Israfel will not likely garner a ton of new fans with “Red Robes” than it had already with “Wisdom” unless fans of the subgenre lived under a rock. However, if you love the creepy offbeat vibe of early Sabbath mashed up with a touch of Swedish epic doom, then “Red Robes” is for you. With all the quirky melodies and odd juxtaposition of Tom Sutton’s vocals with the music, it is hard not to fall in love with The Order of Israfel, which comes to smack you down with tons of groove and lead lined riffs. “Red Robes” continues exactly where “Wisdom” left off, but with a little more droning lengthy parts that may not quite grab you like “The Noctuus.” Still, the band stands head and shoulders above a very saturated subgenre.

Highs: The perfect machination of creepy Sabbath and epic Candlemass.

Lows: With so many bands flooding the doom genre, its hard to find a distinct band.

Bottom line: With swords in the air and "Red Robes" your doom is at hand!

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)