Concept of God - Visions 4/5

Reviewed: 12-7-07


1. Past perfect
2. Visions (Nightmares)
3. Soul embrace
4. Hearing voices
5. Falling down
6. Traces
7. Fires of life
8. Unspoken
9. Man of the silver mountain

It's been an amazing year for classic doom. In addition to a superb comeback CD from Texas legends Solitude Aeturnus and the mindblowing new CD from Swedish/American gods Candlemass (not to mention Heaven and Hell's triumphant world tour or the long-heralded and only slightly anticlimactic return of Chicago titans Trouble), the enigmatic Concept of God's debut CD has finally been released. The brainchild of Solitude Aeturnus 2nd guitarist Steve Moseley, Concept of God assembled a line-up consisting exclusively of current or former Solitude members and recorded a full-length CD in late 2000 and early 2001, after Solitude's 'Adagio' cycle ended. Because of record industry apathy (let's face it: this niche genre has never been a hot seller in the marketplace) and assorted family/health/life complications of various members, the Concept of God album was shelved for nearly 7 years. Finally, in the summer of 2007, Moseley and friends dusted off the old recordings, remixed them, and secured a release through Germany's Massacre Records (not coincidentally the label home of Solitude Aeturnus), with a push from Brainticket Records (the label run by John Perez, the mastermind of Solitude and virtually the only present or recent past member of that band not to participate in Concept of God).

After such a Homerian epic saga just to bring the CD to fruition, the obvious question is: Was it worth it? Absolutely. Inhabiting a sonic space that draws on elements of Solitude, Candlemass, Black Sabbath, and more esoteric stuff like Memento Mori or Memory Garden (with perhaps a pinch of Morgana Lefay in the riffing sometimes), 'Visions' packs a wallop and proves competitive with the genre heavyweights. The temptation as a reviewer would be to say it sounds like Solitude Aeturnus, and leave it at that, but such a conclusion wouldn't be entirely accurate. Of course there are similarities between Concept of God and the members' day-job band. How can there not be, given the distinctive vocal stylings of Robert Lowe and Moseley's riffing style which owes much to that piledriving Perez crunch? But it would be misleading to characterize Concept of God as a mere carbon copy of Solitude. There are substantial differences. Most obviously, the songwriting is more linear, without those epic twists and turns that Perez gleefully folds into the Solitude Aeturnus recipe. Here, Moseley picks a straightforward riff, melody or chorus idea, and simply rides it for 4 or 5 minutes. As a result, 'Visions' absorbs into the brain quicker and easier than most Solitude opuses, but is missing some of the dynamics that elevate Solitude to other-worldliness. Another difference is that Lowe (who is once again magnificent here) adopts a grittier, more aggressive tone than the crystal clear and clean vocals that have characterized his work with Solitude. More generally, the entire CD sounds a bit earthier, rawer, and less majestic than Solitude, perhaps sporting a 70s vibe not unlike that heard on some Candlemass.

There is certainly some risk of overexposure for Lowe, for whom 2007 has been a breakout year after a protracted absence. I remember being worked up in a lather in 2005 when he did a cameo on one song on the Phantom-X debut, but I never could have dared to hope that Lowe would lend his voice to 3 world-class doom CDs in 2007. It's an embarrassment of riches, I tell you. And while 'Visions' may not quite be able to match the sheer genre-defining brilliance of 'King of the grey islands' or 'Alone', material like "Unspoken" (the most epic and Solitude-like song here), "Past perfect", "Hearing voices", and the explosive cover of Rainbow's "Man on the silver mountain" should catapult Concept of God to the upper echelon of any serious doom fan's hierarchy. Hats off to Moseley for keeping his vision intact and seeing it through to completion, no matter how many years it took and no matter how many hardships had to be overcome. We are all truly doomed.




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