Silent Hill - s/t 2/5

Reviewed: 10-10-08


1. Intro
2. October 41
3. Cold frontiers
4. Interlude I
5. The solemn bird
6. Interlude II
7. Silent Hill
8. Interlude to criteria
9. Criteria

The sticker on the front of this CD proudly proclaims "mysterious symphonic horrific doom metal from the obscure catacombs of ancient Rome." The label is Doom Symphony, the gloomy darkened offshoot of Underground Symphony that specializes in releases that haunt the obscure via such offerings as the overlooked All Souls' Day, Trinakrius and Faith CDs. Doom Symphony tends to stick to the melodic classic branch of the doom family tree, with releases staunchly in the vein of Solitude Aeturnus, Candlemass, Memory Garden, Forsaken, Well of Souls and acts of that ilk. As I've always been enamored of this particular brand of doom metal, I was eager to check out Italy's Silent Hill. Given the Doom Symphony imprimatur, the mystical shadowy image of the band, and the superb JP Fournier cover painting, Silent Hill had a lot of factors working in their favor before their CD ever found its way into my player.

Unfortunately, things went downhill from there. The most basic, fundamental problem with this CD is that it does not have enough material to justify a full-length release. Boasting a meager running time of just 39 minutes, the actual bona fide content is much shorter, as there are no fewer than 4 mostly worthless interludes consisting of creepy sounding keyboard parts, spooky effects, and mostly clean atmospheric guitars, like a Halloween sound effects CD gone terribly awry. And they drone on and on. These interludes fill nearly 11 minutes of space, leaving just 5 proper songs spanning 28 minutes. I know, I know, 'Reign in blood' was 28 minutes long and it's not too short, but trust me, this is no 'Reign in blood'. A band that's been together since 2003, as Silent Hill have been, and scored a deal with Doom Symphony ought to have a full release's worth of material at the ready. Silent Hill apparently do not, yet this CD was not marketed by the label as an EP or priced at a discounted rate. So much for value for the money.

Notwithstanding all of my grousing, we can all agree that quality is more important than quantity. If the 5 proper songs on this Silent Hill CD were doom hammers of the highest order, all would be forgiven. But they're not. Oh, the slow-paced riffs of guitarist Rick Tran are suitably lugubrious, thick and rumbling in the great While Heaven Wept/Penance tradition, with even a taste of old Paradise Lost thrown in on the shimmering main guitar theme of "Cold frontiers" for good measure. But the songs just kind of drift aimlessly along, with no catchy melodies or interesting tempo changes that might make the songs stick in the listener's mind when the CD is over. Even worse, there are several songs where annoying sound-effect keyboard flourishes in the body of the song (think trick-or-treating sound effects again) punctuate the main riffs. Also hurting Silent Hill's cause are the drab, rough-edged, mid-range vocals of Chris Rotten, who is no more than a serviceable singer and fails to give the songs the power and punch they need to ascend to the next level. For doom music like this to push my buttons, the vocals must be exceptional. Rotten's are not.

This review is probably more negative than it ought to be. Completist doom maniacs may find Silent Hill to be worthy. Fans of weird doom might vibe on this stuff. For me, however, only a narrow slice of the doom metal spectrum is of interest, that being the epic melodic style spearheaded by Solitude Aeturnus and Candlemass. This Silent Hill release veers off into more experimental, dare I say psychedelic, territory than my tastes can really appreciate. The melodies are not sufficiently interesting, the vocals are not sufficiently mesmerizing, and the songwriting is not sufficiently developed to capture my fancy. My only hope for Silent Hill is that perhaps this material was intended as a demo and Doom Symphony rushed the band to release it as a full-length CD. Perhaps with more seasoning and development of their songwriting skills, Silent Hill could rise to become a force in the doom scene. For now, however, they're strictly 2nd tier.




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