Label: Young Tobacco Records
Release Date: 12 December 2019
Format Reviewed: Digital Stream
So here we are it’s Christmas. I think you can readily see why this presented itself as the release that I was duty-bound to review. I was looking for something, and thinking “hmm are we going to end up posting a review of some Doom or Sludge or Death Metal on Christmas day?” Well… kinda, for what we have here is some undeniable Doom. Fittingly though as the cover art and CHRISTMASS name indicates, we also have something kinda festive… well if you squint, because actually this dear readers is a musical journey into the cold northern winters, a journey that leads to a slow frozen death. But, hey, let it snow, right!
Coming to us from Norilsk, Russia, there’s not too much else I can tell you about this mysterious figure called CHRISTMASS, other than he(?), it(?) may have been walking the earth for milenia, as according to the release page on Bandcamp for “Vigil”, “CHRISTMASS is everywhere and nowhere, ever-walking a funeral march in the bleak snowblindness of eternal midwinter”. So for my own peace of mind as I listen to this slowly dragging, enveloping and reverberating Doom Metal, it’s a relief to be safe and warm indoors and not at the mercy of the elements outside.
Comprising four tracks that seamlessly flow from one to the next, “Vigil” is built upon crashing, thick walls of guitars resonating, alongside funereal percussive hits. A grim, ghostlike quoir, provide intermittent accompaniment, as well as some eery and melodically familiar, sparse piano playing, altogether maintaining a very effective and gripping atmosphere throughout.
Opening with ominous sounds of trudging footsteps bells, howling wind and other evocative textures, “Stille Nacht” kicks in with a huge wave of guitars summoning forth a slow, Doom march, replete with sinister whispering vocals, somewhat lurking deep in the mix, like a voice calling you from the depths of winter; beckoning you into the frozen night. The track builds very effectively before everything gives way to the entrance of the quoir, the wind whipping around them. It really is easy to be swept along by the feeling of travelling through the snow and stumbling upon an abandoned Arctic monastery, as the narrative of this release goes.
The story and journey continues on “Past” with more churning, slabs of guitar, whispering voices from the depths and distant howls like the screeching metal of a ghost train, howling in the darkness, before, again this dark vision disintegrates into the night and the quoir summon forth “Present” a track carried along on a haunting piano melody, with the sound of a roaring fire (in the monastery?). The piano motif is so familiar, as if intentionally echoing something so well known… and yet I can’t quite place it.
Final track “Yet To Come” carries the piano through and draws the story to a close, again with huge, reverberating guitars, and a feel altogether very reminiscent of JESU, especially with the accompanying drums and a sense of something slightly dischordent in the guitars. In its final movement, the track offers a feeling of something almost redemptive, or at least offers closure, perhaps this is the sound of the spirit leaving the body and ascending. Yet in these final notes there is ambiguity in that contrast of soaring choral notes, tied to the dark, dischordent guitars.
I don’t know what kind of Christmas this is I stumbled upon, but “Vigil” is really a pretty wonderful find. And then just like that CHRISTMASS trudges off into the snow, to return sometime… maybe. 7.5/10 Tom Boatman
7.5/10 Victory is Possible!
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