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Novembers Doom - "Bled White" (CD)

Novembers Doom - "Bled White" CD cover image

"Bled White" track listing:

1. Bled White
2. Heartfelt
3. Just Breathe
4. Scorpius
5. Unrest
6. The Memory Room
7. The Brave Pawn
8. Clear
9. The Grand Circle
10. Animus
11. The Silent Dark

Reviewed by on May 14, 2014

"The tracks on “Bled White” are well thought out, well crafted, and well delivered while both keeping the band's core sound to please the fans and trying out a few new things to avoid stagnation."

No review occurs in a vacuum: it's an unfortunate but true fact that a reviewer's perceptions are always colored by past experiences and expectations, which is why some can love an album and others can give a hearty “meh.” Yours truly was introduced to the world of November's Doom about eight years ago after several people had told me “they sound just like Opeth.” That of course didn't turn out to be the case, and I really honed in my criticisms of what I heard back then on all the ways the band didn't meet that expectation, so frankly I didn't enjoy the albums as much as I could have.

Years later now I'm getting back into the band on its own merits and am delighted to hear that many of the things I didn't like from “The Pale Haunt Departure” era are nowhere to be found. There's no more gurgling babies, no weird interludes with nothing to do with the music, no more exciting buildups that go nowhere. The tracks on “Bled White” are well thought out, well crafted, and well delivered while both keeping the band's core sound to please the fans and trying out a few new things to avoid stagnation.

Paul Kuhr's trademark back and forth between harsh and clean vocals is still there, but there are now a couple of welcome change-ups from the usual template. The harsh side gets a revamp from time to time with a more throaty scream outside Kuhr's standard range, and the offsetting gentle side also manages a few twists, like layered vocals worked over heavier segments. There's no doubt that Paul is a competent vocalist on both sides of the spectrum, although in past albums both the harsh and cleans tended to stay inside a very small range that led to repetition in the sound, and now finally that chain is being broken and the sound is expanding.

On the vocal front, there are loads of harsh and heavy moments (the opening title track in particular hosts a bevy of them), but the album as a whole seems to slant slightly more towards the clean end this time around. There's the atmospheric “Just Breathe,” which is like a Gothic, doomed out version of a ballad with a gloomy Katatonia vibe, and then other tracks like the “Scorpius” interlude with it's moody plucked strings.

So what about the album's downsides? Really, there aren't many, and the band was right to be proud of this release as a high point in its career. “Clear” isn't a bad song by any means, but it feels a little restrained and toned down in comparison to the rest of the album's offerings. The album also might not have needed a full 11 tracks, as the formula is pretty similar across the last three or four songs, but on the whole “Bled White” is an excellent listen, and easily among the best that Novembers Doom has to offer.

Highs: Novembers Doom hits the right balance between keeping the old sound and trying new things. This may be the band's best offering so far.

Lows: Not many - some of the last few songs sound overly similar.

Bottom line: The gloomy Chicago outfit continues to meld the extreme with the atmospheric, but this time with both more focus and more range.

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)