Litany - Aphesis: The sapience of dying 3.5/5

Reviewed: 4-10-09


1. Solemn
2. Obituary
3. Deomns Lament
4. Plunder thy sons
5. Fly on redemption's wind
6. Dawn
7. New born dark (666)
8. Litany
9. Thanatopsis

These days, it seems like the divide between the haves and the have-nots in the classic doom world has never been greater. The top-shelf acts (Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus, Heaven and Hell, Memory Garden) are firing on all cylinders and delivering some of the best work of their members' long and distinguished careers. The myriad doom metal hopefuls around the world, although many of them are fine bands in their own right, have simply been unable to keep pace with the inspired genius of the genre leaders. But that doesn't mean that some aren't striving valiantly to close the gap. Greece's Litany are a case in point. The Athenian quintet have been a going concern since 2000, so they had 8 long years to hone their craft before releasing their debut CD, the strangely-titled 'Aphesis: The sapience of dying' on Eat Metal Records. Several Greek fanzines have hailed Litany as their nation's best, greatest hope for doom metal excellence, so I decided to investigate for myself.

First, a word about the packaging. I suspect some site visitors might not click on the link for this review at all because of the vaguely death metal cover artwork and the bizarre CD title. I'll make no apologies for the ill-fitting painting, but the title is more suitable and clever than you might think. "Aphesis" is a Greek word meaning "a letting go", and "sapience" essentially means "wisdom". So the CD title means "letting go: The wisdom of death". If that's not an appropriately bleak and doomy sentiment, then I don't know what is.

And it matches the contents of the CD well. Litany offer up an hour of epic doom metal in the fine Solitude Aeturnus tradition, with many of the high-quality riffs of Alex Tsantilis and Panayiotis Drivas bearing marked similarity to those churned out by Solitude's John Perez, all without ever sounding like a copy. But the Solitude Aeturnus comparison doesn't end there, inasmuch as Litany have wisely recognized that some variety in pacing is necessary to hold the listener's attention over the span of a 60-minute doom CD, so there are ample uptempo, more traditional metal moments sprinkled into the plodding somber assault. Vocalist Nick Varsamis may not be a budding superstar, but he has a strong voice and acquits himself quite well on this CD. Importantly, Varsamis manages to sound tuneful, mournful and confident, a trifecta at which many of his peers in the classic doom genre have failed. There were even a few times when he reminded me ever so slightly of Mike Scalzi (The Lord Weird Slough Feg), which can only be a good thing.

My biggest criticism of 'Aphesis' is that Litany sometimes chafe at the fairly rigid boundaries of the classic doom style. For example, there's a blastbeat section in "Demon's lament" and in a couple of tracks Varsamis tosses in some frankly annoying blackened growls that don't really fit the vibe and feel of the music. Additionally, the 60-minute running time suffers from bloat in a few spots, where the songs could have been benefitted from a trim. Did "Fly on redemption's wings" really need to be almost 9 minutes long? Was it necessary for "Thanatopsis" to surpass the 12-minute mark? I would answer both questions in the negative. That said, Litany are hardly the only band afflicted with the too-long-song syndrome these days, as anyone who heard the most recent studio CDs by Iron Maiden and Metallica can readily attest. If you're looking for a CD worthy of a spot amidst the epic doom heavyweights, you won't find it in 'Aphesis'. But if your sights are a little lower, and you're looking for a doom CD that is competitive with the likes of Forsaken, Trinakrius, Thunderstorm, While Heaven Wept and so on, then this Litany debut will fill that niche nicely. A fine and worthy slice of gloom from the Mediterranean.




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