Ontario-dwelling black metal doom fusionists Vow of Thorns once served as an anagram for Kevin Hawthorne’s solo work, now a joint effort with Dustin Richards, the duo has quickly become one of the most intimidating musical ventures to date. The band is constantly shifting between disparaging black metal vocals and triumphant guitar hooks dripping with doom-encrusted bass riffs and theatrical drums. The band pairs the forces of black metal and doom, blending the two styles with ease while maintaining a certain sense of tension and uncertainty in the air.
Lyrically, the vocals act like a lone wolf trailing off into a forest unwilling to look back and focusing only on what despair lay ahead. With titles like ‘To The Unknown’ and ‘Wood Etched Epitaph’ on their 2013 debut EP ‘Forest Dweller’ the band accurately absorbs elements of the Canadian northern climate and transcribes it into works of musical art.
"Meeting on the Astral Plane" tells the story of one man’s escape from physical reality to a place of infinite possibilities; an existence free of mortal boundaries. The escape, however, is only temporary and he must return to his lowly existence and face himself, which he does in the following track 'Great Abomination'.
"His experience on the astral plane leads him to believe that death may be the ultimate escape. As our protagonist’s experience progresses so does the music. From the triumphant march of the opening riff to the crushing doom encased ending."- D. Richards.
One is able to catch a glimpse of each influence in Vow of Thorns songwriting and their influences including Woods of Ypres, Agalloch, Drudkh, Opeth, Daylight Dies, and Wolves in the Throne Room. The band is on a journey that slowly takes on darker, lucid, and more despairing elements as they play more shows and write more records. Vow of Thorns is always developing sinister and near-unstable black metal blanketed by an entrancing shroud. The band is currently gearing up to release their next album and first full-length ‘Farewell To The Sun’ slated for July 15, 2016.
01. Meeting On The Astral Plane (10:30)
02. Great Abomination (05:07)
03. Farewell To The Sun Part I (04:28)
04. Farewell To The Sun Part 2 (10:33)
05. Farewell To The Sun Part 3 (07:52)
06. Doomed Woods (12:40)
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The fusion of black metal and doom is a task that can only be achieved successfully by bands who understand the subtleties, the nuances of both. The unbridled darkness and rage of black metal, meeting the gloomy melancholic introspection of doom is something only a few bands have managed to pull off. Mid 2000s Agalloch is a good reference point for Canadians Vow of Thorns, whose ‘Farewell to the Sun’ is a masterpiece.
The gloomy magnificence of ‘Meeting on the Astral Plane’ is obvious for all to see. It soars with blackened glory, and other sections trickle past with melancholic acoustics. ‘Great Abomination’ is a more traditional black metal piece, with scything riffs cutting through the cold misty atmosphere, and a frostbitten aesthetic that rears its bleak head again in the three part title track.
‘Part 1’ is the scene setter; a lonely melody weaving its wintry way towards an icy peak, where ‘Part 2’ takes us upon that journey, high above any of those mere human concerns, to where ancient spirits shriek and the snow falls. This is an excellent, evocative record that brings to mind the naturalist strength of Drudkh, but the weeping melancholy of Agalloch. ‘Part 3’ is the most “doom” section, with a dirging riff crushing those trapped beneath.
Closing with the grey epic ‘Doomed Woods’, Vow of Thorns have crafted one of my favourite record this year. ‘Farewell to the Sun’ is an album that sits perfectly on a rainy day, and with each listen unlocks new levels and subtleties. I love this record, and you should too.