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While Heaven Wept: Vast Oceans Lachrymose

Attempting to bridge musical styles and genres is a dangerous game, often the compromises required to effectively illustrate the different aspects meant to be represented actually end up cancelling out what was first intended and instead of broadening a band's sound and appeal, the results end in the type of confusion that turns off listeners across the board.

After living with Vast Oceans Lachrymose - the first album in four years from While Heaven Wept – for over a month now, I wonder if the dangers laid out above ever crossed their mind. Across the six drawn out, almost mini epic tracks it is quite impossible to slide this album into a neat little genre pigeon hole and while as a reviewer that in itself posses a few problems, as a listener I have to say that the band's efforts are hugely rewarding. WHW's previous work could probably have most correctly been identified as doom and that element is still a strong flavour here, although if that description conjures up slow tracks that grind their message out over hard hitting power-loads of guitars, then in truth that is quite far from the mark. Due to the scope, structure and intricacy of the music, the word "symphonic" could also be employed in an attempt to tie the sound down, however the fret blazing bombast that is immediately brought to life through that tag never materialises and that genre's well worn clichés are easily avoided. Lastly I would add progressive to the list, however as with the other genres mentioned, the actual image that would usually be thought of from that description are a million miles from what is presented here.

There are vast swathes of instrumental passages across this disc, with a compelling mix of Scott Loose and Tom Phillips guitar playing, Michelle Schrotz keyboards (Phillips also plays some keys), and the precision rhythm work of bassist Jim Hunter and Trevor Schrotz on drums weaving their spell. With music ranging from the double kick drum excess and six string duelling of "Living Sepulchre", to the beautiful classical guitar of "Vessel", which then morphs into a thrash meets doom romp. Or the symphonic keys of "The Furthest Shores" to the anthemic guitar refrain and atmospheric classical themes that make up the closing duo of "Vast Oceans Lachrymose" and "Epilogue", this collection of songs make up an album that picks you up and places you in the heart of the song's stories. The fact that the only song I haven't mentioned "To Wander The Void" actually encapsulates the whole feel of the album without ever becoming too filled with its own grandeur, is a testament indeed to the ability of the band to bring this potentially difficult concoction to fruition. Singer Rain Irving has a crystal clear delivery that, I'm glad to say negates the need for growling and when he combines to harmonise with Michelle Schrotz the effect is quite wonderful.

I'm pleased to say that while actually pinning a tag on this album remains ridiculously difficult, I have slowly become seduced by the tremendous song writing and skilful execution here, which should gain favour with broad minded supporters of any of the genres named so far. The tracks all work together as movements in a classical piece would, with themes and sounds being revisited on occasion in a way that doesn't remind you of what has come before, but does leave the impression that every song is vital to the success of the others it sits alongside. It still is an album where you could happily listen to a couple of tracks and file away again,however the experience of living through the entire disc is remarkably satisfying due to the cohesive nature of the work.

Vast Oceans Lachrymose feels like it must have been a daunting task to take on, however the overall effect is far greater than the sum of its parts and in an age where the sub-genrification of heavy music seeks to exclude people, While Heaven Wept have displayed the ability to appeal to a huge cross section of music lovers with this album, which is a rare skill indeed.

Track Listing
1. The Furthest Shore
2. To Wander the Void
3. Living Sepulchre
4. Vessel
5. Vast Oceans Lachrymose
6. Epilogue

Added: July 5th 2010
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: While Heaven Wept Official eb Site
Hits: 2036
Language: english

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