Album of the Week 09-2014: While Heaven Wept – Vast Oceans Lachrymose

Originally a Doom Metal band, While Heaven Wept evolved into a powerful, epic Heavy Metal band with a slightly progressive touch in recent years. Though ‘Vast Oceans Lachrymose’ had a bumpy road – not one, but two record labels that went out of business – in order to get released, when it did see the light of day in 2009, it immediately prove to be a crowning achievement for not only the Virginia based band, but for Heavy Metal as a whole. ‘Vast Oceans Lachrymose’ is a work of art of epic proportions. One of the very few triumphs for traditional Heavy Metal in an otherwise disappointing decade for the genre.

Though the material is still mainly midtempo at fastest, While Heaven Wept is no longer one of the better Candlemass soundalikes on this album. It seems likely that the lineup changes that took place in the process of making this album have made quite an impact. Band leader and guitarist Tom Phillips had a decent singing voice, but the addition of Rain Irving’s power and range gives a whole new depth to the band’s compositions, as do the keyboard duties of Michelle Schrotz. Still, the slightly more progressive take on his songwriting duties and the massive production seem to be Phillips’ own evolution.

Epic Doom Metal or not, 16 minute opening track ‘The Furthest Shore’ is the finest song While Heaven Wept – or in deed any band associated with Doom Metal – has ever recorded. A monstrous monument of a track, taking the listener on an odyssey through multiple movements where you can almost feel the waves crashing to the ship displayed in the John Martin painting on the album cover. Massive riffs, fantastic vocals by Irving and goosebumps caused by the majestic melodies together form something so beautiful that it has to be heard to be believed. And the best thing is: not one moment does it feel like you’re spending over a quarter of an hour listening to the song.

However, that’s not where the fun – yes, after seeing the ‘Triumph:Tragedy:Transcendence’ dvd, I dare to use that term with this Doom band – stops. ‘To Wander The Void’ is Phillips’ tribute to Fates Warning and though easily recognizable as While Heaven Wept through its huge riffs, the influence of the Progmetal giants is audible. ‘Vessel’ has a recognizable, almost accessible chorus in which Irving and Schrotz weave a majestic, passionate harmony. Also, its opening riff reminds me of King Diamond’s ‘Welcome Home’. The title track is a colossal instrumental with almost dream-like melodies and ‘Living Sepulchre’ is possibly the band’s fastest track thus far, with Trevor Schrotz’ outstanding double bass work highlighting.

Maybe traditionalist Doomsters will be put off by the greater deal of variation in both the tempos and riff work heard on ‘Vast Oceans Lachrymose’, but the truth is that the album is an artistic masterpiece of the same proportions as Martin’s art that graces the cover. If I ever had to name a reason why I started listening to Heavy Metal, the riffs, melodies and unexpected twists in the songwriting department on this record would come very close to providing a satisfying explanation. The band is currently working on a 40-minute track slated for release later this year, until then, there’s more brilliance than on any average Metal album to be heard on ‘Vast Oceans Lachrymose’.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Furthest Shore’, ‘Vast Oceans Lachrymose’, ‘To Wander The Void’

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