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Bathsheba: Servus

I recently watched a Korean horror film called The Wailing that featured some of the saddest and most despairing scenes I've seen in a long time. As I listen to this album, I return right away to some of those emotions, even though the setting and purpose of this album and that film are different. This is an album about the relentlessness of human suffering, about the ways events beat down our defenses and leaves us sad, angry, and confused. Some people handle such events with hope and grace, others with despair and hopelessness. Even though Servus takes up the latter, there's a paradoxical quality to it, as though the emphasis on negativity ultimately celebrates human hope. The blues point to human suffering as a means of finding strength and I think this album does that as well.

The music here is low and heavy, an extended exercise in doom and sludge. Listeners may even feel the weight of the music and its themes on several tracks. There are lighter moments but they are no less given to the problem of suffering in a world gone mad. Even though I'd call this album doom metal, it is not merely so. It's more brooding and despairing than work by comparable bands; it is also occasionally frightening and surprisingly beautiful. Much of the emotional power comes from Michelle Nocon's rough and demonic voice. Metal fans are used to growling vocals like Nocon's but her rasp has a power that effective, scary, and emotive. Check out "Demon 13" for the strongest example of what she can do. I recommend checking out her clean vocals as well. She has a nice voice that contributes nicely to the overall mood. Aside from Nocon, Bathsheba also includes Jelle Stevens on drums, Raf Meukens on bass, and Dwight Goossens on guitar. Together, the band carries the weight and intensity of the music beautifully. It's probably cliché to describe a band as "crushing," but it's a good term and one that certainly applies here. There are also some solid quieter moments, the kind that lets the music breathe. These passages are no less sad, but they rely mainly on lead passages from the guitar to discover new ways of exploring it. I particularly enjoyed "Manifest" in that light. Goossens' extended melodic lead sounded good and took me away from the larger emotional weight of Nocon's vocals. "Manifest" is also a strong indication of this band's ability to blend sludge and doom with melody. On the flip side, "Ain Soph" is a scary and dark song that has a rather baffling melodic saxophone solo in it. When I first heard it, I was flummoxed by the wailing of the sax and wondered what was going on. Listening to the track again, I found myself still confused but also curious: what is this doing here? I could have done without it, but I have to admit that it brought greater wildness to a song that was already pretty crazy.

Overall, this is an impressive debut album from a band clearly poised to make a strong impression. I think most people will focus on Nocon's harsh vocals but Bathsheba is a solid band, not just a support team for a charismatic singer. Fans of doom metal will find plenty to enjoy here.

Track Listing:
1. Of Fire
2. Ain Soph
3. Manifest
4. Demon 13
5. The Sleepless Gods
6. At the End of Everything

Added: February 15th 2017
Reviewer: Carl Sederholm
Related Link: Bandcamp Page
Hits: 1923
Language: english

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