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Heaven Grey: Manuscritpum

Releasing the album Northwind in 1998, Latvian doom metal outfit Heaven Grey disappeared soon after. However with guitarist Vjaĉeslavs the only returning member, the band reconvened to deliver their second outing Falling Mist some twelve years later. Things have again moved on from there, new vocalist Artūrs and drummer Slasla Ronsons joining the band in 2014, while Stanislav Semjonov (keyboards) and bassist Andrei Nikitin came aboard in 2012 with returning cellist Reinis and drummer Dino, who signed on in 2007 phew!

So with the back story covered, let's deal with the (nearly) here and now, Manuscriptum arriving towards the end of 2016, as the band surge forward in a downcast, hammering of drums and swirl of cello strings. It makes for an interesting starting point and while you get the impression that the budget the band have had at their disposal has verged on the side of minuscule, you also have to say that for the large part they do a decent job of overcoming that hurdle. Especially in a genre where atmosphere and mood are everything. With that in mind it's easy to forgive a slightly flat sound that leaves the guitars a little one dimensional, although with cello a main feature throughout, there is a decent amount of light and shade introduced into proceedings.

However where Heaven Grey fall down is key, for instead of a singer who really takes this barrage of doomish melancholy and raises it with enigmatic vocal histrionics, or a gruffness that grabs you and demands your attention, Artūrs decides to do neither. In clean mode he comes across as unsure more a case of asking you if he's getting it right than stamping his authority on proceedings. While his rough edged approach is neither a growl nor a bark, instead a simple low end rumble emanating without any real threat or gravitas. In truth it scuppers the album's chances of being anything more than a disappointment, for while there are little sections where piano tinkles enigmatically in the background, or where cello swirls into a gently unsettling breeze, what's really needed on the aggressive assault of "Drown In My Shade", the despairing "Theatre Of Shadows" or marching and proud title track, is a voice that really takes these solid foundations and builds something individual and proud on them. Something which sadly never happens. Sadly, on its own the music isn't quite enough to knock you sideways, a perfectly solid album lacking the spark or character to draw you back for more.

With the constant changes Heaven Grey have undergone not just since their inception, but since their more recent reinvention, a few missed steps along the way are understandable. However it may take further changes still for this band to truly get the chance to make their mark.

Track Listing
1. Insomnia
2. Drown in My Shade
3. Theatre of Shadows
4. Sirds Balss
5. I Belong to the Dead
6. When the Mist Falls
7. False Trust
8. Manuscriptum
9. Egoist

Added: January 29th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Heaven Grey on Facebook
Hits: 1204
Language: english

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