Wednesday, September 24, 2014

While Heaven Wept - Suspended at Aphelion (2014)
While Heaven Wept are undoubtedly one of doom metal's best kept secrets. I first became attracted to their epic doom sound with the riveting "Vast Oceans Lachrymose." While Heaven Wept are known for their beautiful, melancholic atmosphere, heavy riffs, and mournful vocals.

On this album the band decided to make a concept album and from a lyrical and aesthetic standpoint they succeed. Musically though, "Suspended at Aphelion" leaves a bit to be desired.

It starts off well enough with the gorgeous classical piece "Introspectus" which sets the tone for the whole album. Then we come to my favorite track "Icarus and I" which doesn't have any doom to speak of, but is nonetheless epic and grandiose. The last few minutes of the song make you feel as if you're soaring through the heavens just as Icarus did.

Things slow down after that with "Ardor" which repeats the last few minutes of "Icarus and I." Reprises are a common musical device, but using one right after its parent track, rather than at the end, and not making it acoustic are not very good ideas. 

The next moment of excitement comes with track 5 "Indifference Turned Paralysis" which shows the band's proficiency with translating classical musical structures into metal. A power metal band could have easily written this piece (and that's not a bad thing at all considering I'm a fan of power metal).

The album's second truly great track is "Reminiscence of Strangers" which is a beautiful ballad which builds up into the kind of epic doom melody I was hoping to hear on this album.

There are three tracks under 2 minutes on this album and that is a pet peeve of mine. Unless it's punk or grindcore, I'd prefer albums have songs at least 2 minutes long. The band would have been much better off combining the time used for those three tracks into something better.

The long and short of it is that the truly epic moments I was hoping for are few and far between. Much of this album is repetitive and not all that interesting. While Heaven Wept are clearly a talented band and I'm a big fan of theirs. However, it seems like this time they couldn't focus that talent into something really cohesive and memorable like "Vast Oceans Lachrymose." Concept albums are fine as long as each song can shine on its own. Most of the songs here, unfortunately, cannot. That said, this is still a good album and it contains creative songwriting and a couple of really good tracks that make it worth coming back to.


(Special thanks to Nuclear Blast to providing me a promo copy.)


  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on "SAA"...we appreciate it truly. That said, we strongly encourage you to go back and listen multiple times, as there's a lot more going on than is obvious in the upper layers. Further, this isn't a collection of 11 songs, rather it is a single, 39:12 minute song; the subtitles only reflect markers during the channeling of this music and/or a change of mood. Cheers, and don't give up on this one...the general consensus is it takes 5-10 listens to fully some cases more! And we suggest using an array of speakers/headphones as well, there are sonic details that different mediums highlight.

  2. Thanks so much Tom for commenting on my review. It's truly an honor! I'll definitely take your advice and give the album some more listens. Hopefully it'll click with me more. Cheers!

  3. Thanks for listening and taking things into consideration; it's vital that everyone understands that "SAA" is an album-length song, intended to be taken as a whole. There's quite a bit that transpires, and while it's not crushingly heavy compared to say "The Drowning Years" or something, it wasn't meant to be; it's an entity unto itself, and has nothing to do with anything prior. We have no interest in repeating ourselves, despite being aware of the fact there are those who really want "VOL 2" or even those who prefer when I was singing. Pallbearer, Procession, Atlantean Kodex, Isole, etc. all have that territory covered. Try to think of this more along the lines of "Misplaced Childhood" or "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway". Also, there isn't much in the way of "traditional structure"; progressions and motifs from the intro resurface in different places, as do other passages (for example the chorus of "Icarus"/"Ardor" replicated by the cellos and mellotron in "Retrospectus"). And personally, I'd recommend listening closely to "Souls In Permafrost" as there's total madness transpiring in there! And by the way, the album we "skipped" to do "SAA" - while also different, is 95% METAL, whereas the newest material in progress is more out there than "SAA", heavier too! Thanks again for listening and I hope it does "click" with further listens...but again, main thing here is, there's no "singles" or separate songs really, just one bigass epic! - Tom