Well of Souls - Sorrow my name 3.5/5
1. Sorrow my name
3. The pain’s not forgotten
4. As I die
5. Sanity’s lie
6. Ashes of despair
7. A dark soul’s destiny
With a name like Well of Souls, this band could only be about one thing: Classic doom metal in the style of the revered masters. “Well of souls”, of course, is an all-time great Candlemass song from the immortal ‘Nightfall’ CD. To reinforce the point, Well of Souls’ new CD, ‘Sorrow my name’, like their 2003 debut CD, is released through Solitude Aeturnus guitarist/mastermind John Perez’s Brainticket Records label. The handwriting on the wall couldn’t be any clearer. If your heart does not beat for true crushing doom with ascendant strains of melody, heaviness and melancholy, then you’d best skip this review and move right along.
Still with me? Good. Let me tell you about ‘Sorrow my name’. After being floored by their debut CD nearly a decade ago (could it really have been so long?), I feared that we’d heard the last of these Texas doom merchants. Lo and behold, Well of Souls have risen from the ashes in 2012, albeit with a couple of new members. The most succinct, 2-word description I can give for ‘Sorrow my name’ is this: Solitude Aeturnus. Well of Souls obviously are heartfelt devotees of these legendary doomsters, as their new CD has all the hallmarks of Solitude Aeturnus’s signature sound. The mournful, soaring, crystal clear vocals of John Calvin aren’t a dead-ringer for Robert Lowe’s (no one, and I mean no one, executes this style as well as Lowe did in his prime), but there is more than a passing resemblance between the 2 singers. The thick-as-mud, towering-power-chord, bulldozer guitars of John Morris and Tim Wayne recall the phenomenal John Perez/Edgar Rivera team at their neck-wrecking best. And the band’s penchant for epic song structures (with 5 of the 7 songs eclipsing the 7-minute mark) is consistent with Solitude Aeturnus’s like-minded affinity. Now, before you get the wrong idea, Well of Souls are no cheap copy of Solitude Aeturnus, but their sound, style and presentation are close enough that fans of one band should enjoy the other, and vice versa.
There’s some superb material on ‘Sorrow my name’, too. The title track is a haunting, captivating song with a brilliant, heart-rending hook line, “Sorrow, feels alive/Spirit, left behind,” delivered emotionally by Calvin. “The pain’s not forgiven” has a remarkable mid-section, in which an eerie guitar motif gives way to a thunderous uptempo (for doom) part that carries the song through its conclusion. “Ashes of despair” features a beautiful, spooky guitar theme, a more galloping tempo than most of the other songs, another gut-wrenching vocal performance, and a relatively compact 5 1/2-minute running time. And “A dark soul’s destiny” slows things down to a positively glacial pace, only to shift into another superb mesmerizing chorus.
My only knock on ‘Sorrow my name’ is that it doesn’t quite succeed in maintaining my interest for the full 51-minute running time. It’s a challenge to keep the listener engaged on an epic doom CD because the songs are long, the tempos are slow and the riffs tend towards the hypnotic and repetitive. For me, at least, it takes sterling songwriting and magnificent performances to keep me plugged in and interested. Well of Souls are partially successful in this regard, as they offer some truly magical moments on ‘Sorrow my name’. Unfortunately, there are also parts where the CD drags a bit because of the sheer slow-footed redundancy of the songs. Don’t get me wrong: Everything sounds immensely cool when you hear it in isolation, but played all together in one sitting it definitely starts to run together.
Undoubtedly, someone, somewhere will get bent out of shape at Well of Souls’ appropriation of broad swaths of Solitude Aeturnus’s well-known style and sound. Not me. For starters, if Solitude Aeturnus’s John Perez has blessed this band to the point of releasing their music on his record label, he’s obviously not troubled by the homage. If John Perez is cool with it, why shouldn’t the rest of us be? Besides, do you know how many studio CDs Solitude Aeturnus have released this millennium? The answer is one, 2006’s ‘Alone’. To my knowledge, nothing new is in the offing either, as the Solitude Aeturnus camp has been tragically quiet. If Well of Souls are willing and capable to help fill the monstrous void left by Solitude Aeturnus’s absence, we should welcome it, not condemn it. Fans of classic doom, shed no tears of sorrow, but instead rejoice with ‘Sorrow my name’.
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