Saturday, April 27, 2013

Better to reign in Hell…PROCESSION – ‘To Reap Heavens Apart’

Few bands manage to occupy the soaring, majestic realm of doom that Procession presides over. Over the span of a couple of EPs and a full-length the band has woven a tapestry of death metal ideology seamlessly with the grandeur and instrumentation of traditional doom. Despite the band’s predilection for the dark and sinister, both ‘The Cult of Disease’ EP and ‘Destroyers of the Faith’ full-length stand as monuments of the genre, worthy of veneration. Those two releases managed to cast a shadow over the listener as they traversed perverse lands of pestilence and death while still retaining an epic and noble air. The band’s newest—the ambitiously titled ‘To Reap Heavens Apart’—doesn’t quite ascend to the same heights achieved by the band’s previous works, but it is still a welcome addition to the band’s discography.

While the band has made a giant leap geographically and evolved into a four-piece with some minor lineup changes, the signature Procession sound has remained intact, especially the powerful bellow of vocalist/guitarist Felipe Plaza whose commanding presence is most notably bestowed upon the album’s title track. Despite the lineup changes Procession has also retained the perfect balance of instrumentation that is reflected in the album’s production. The weight of the songs are still carried by the rhythm section and the bass lines are both audible and, like the band’s earlier releases, engaging and mesmerizing—an element that is unfortunately missing or obscured in too many contemporary acts. The strength of the rhythm section allows the guitar playing of Plaza and Jonas Pedersen to create crushing moods and textures that are both abysmal and glorious.

From the album’s impressive title to the shift to a four-piece ‘To Reap Heaven’s Apart’ has everything going for it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite meet expectations, but this can mostly be attributed to the band being a victim of its own success rather than any overt fault or misstep. The instrumental album opener, “Damnatio Memorae”, sets the tone and features an excellent bass line and doom riffing before launching into full-on metal territory. It may be an unjust comparison, but “Damnatio Memorae” doesn’t carry the same heft as an album opener as did “Hyperion” for ‘Destroyers of the Faith’. ‘To Reap Heavens Apart’ is also slightly marred by the fifth track, “The Death Minstrel”. A fading thunderstorm, acoustic guitar, and subtle percussion create a somber, anticipatory mood that plateaus too soon and stagnates into an uninspired spoken word plod.

Minor complaints aside, there is no mistaking that ‘To Reap Heavens Apart’ is a powerful album, but it would seem that it is tarnished by the strength and consistency of the band’s past works. While the title track is an album highlight, it still doesn’t stand out like tracks from the band’s past like “Down the River of Corpses”, the too brief “Hyperion”, or “The Road to the Gravegarden”, all of which are some of the best tunes the genre has to offer.

Words: Steve Miller

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