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While Heaven Wept - "Vast Oceans Lachrymose " (CD)

While Heaven Wept - "Vast Oceans Lachrymose " CD cover image

"Vast Oceans Lachrymose " track listing:

1. The Furthest Shore (15:50)
2. To Wander the Void (6:27)
3. Living Sepulchre (4:00)
4. Vessel (7:47)
5. Vast Oceans Lachrymose (5:01)
6. Epilogue (3:12)

Reviewed by on January 16, 2010

"'Vast Oceans Lachrymose' could have been something really excellent, instead of becoming a good album with vast amounts of unfulfilled possibilities."

Twenty years is a long time for any band to be together, but While Heaven Wept has weathered an endless amount of line-up changes and long waiting periods between albums to release “Vast Oceans Lachrymose,” only their third output to date. Encompassing an aggressive angle of doom that correlates to the slower pace the genre is known for, the band aims for an album that works both as a collective whole and as individual tracks. There is no doubting the epic songwriting that is attempted, and at some points, the band does succeed with it. However, While Heaven Wept never quite maintains this hold for long, leading to an uneven album that had the potential to be something completely fresh and awe-inspiring.

If there is one song that perfectly symbolized the hope for greatness, it would be the opening track. “The Furthest Shore” is a colossal success. A sprawling multi-part journey, the broad range of emotions on display suck the listener right in, keeping their attention for 15-plus minutes. While Heaven Wept throws everything that represents the band into this one track. Keyboard solos, acoustic interludes, instrumental build-up to a heart-stopping vocal outburst, and an extended outro with soaring guitar harmonies and soft piano deep in the background are just a small taste of what “The Furthest Shore” offers. It is easily one of the best openers in recent memory, with the impact of a line drive to the testicular region.

While the band sets the bar high in the early goings, they fall victim to the same issue that Rush’s “2112” and Venom’s “At War With Satan” had; a spectacular opening followed up with tracks that didn’t reach the level ascertained early on. There are so many peaks and curves to “The Furthest Shore” that the rest of the album doesn’t live up to the expectations set. “To Wander The Void” and “Living Sepulchre” are heavy bruisers, with the latter concluding with a tasteful acoustic lead, but lack the defining traits established on the opener.

“Vessel” is the closest the band gets in matching the grandness of “The Furthest Shore.” Following up on the acoustic ending to “Living Sepulchre,” the song is also noteworthy for being the only track with a standard verse/chorus structure. “Tonight, will you sail away/with open arms and eyes ablaze?” is a great chorus given an emotional punch by the high notes of Rain Irving, who never fails to impress with his wide melodic range.

“Vast Oceans Lachrymose” is loosely connected by themes of time, isolation, and sorrow. The bleak mood is set almost immediately and not even the brief acoustic sections can lighten things up. The sounds of calming ocean waves are heavily present in the closing title track and “Epilogue,” technically proficient instrumentals that finish things off on a low-key note.

A case can be made that if the band switched the track listing around, things would have turned out better. That isn’t much of a valid claim, as “Vast Oceans Lachrymose” flows perfectly the way it’s currently set up. There isn’t anything seriously wrong with the album, but the band went for all the marbles on the opening track and failed to completely live up to its impossible standards. “The Furthest Shore” is easily worth the purchase alone though; it’s as good as epic doom metal can get. The rest of the material is solid, but is unable to match wits with the opening track. “Vast Oceans Lachrymose” could have been something really excellent, instead of becoming a good album with vast amounts of unfulfilled possibilities.

Highs: "The Furthest Shore" is a spectacular opening to the album, Rain Irving's wide melodic vocal range, guitar work that focuses on emotion over technicality.

Lows: Rest of material fails to live up to opening track, album ends on bland note with synth instrumental "Epilogue."

Bottom line: A superb opening track in "The Furthest Shore" that overshadows the rest of the doom-laced album.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 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)