Lacrima Mortis the new album from doom metal band The 11th Hour can in no sense of the word be classed as uplifting but as its sombre consuming presence permeates the senses it offers a kind of catharsis. Drenched in the darkest most melancholic of themes it carries a charm and shadowed grace to temper the harshness of the black tales of death, sorrow, and painful loss. The album is a weave of heavy thumping oppressive riffs and stark intent veined by soul searched melodies and diminished yet defiant light. It is a masterful collection of songs that even weighed heavily by a doom spawn intensity has no reluctance in engaging the senses with the dark awe that can also be inspired by the final moment, though primarily the songs are fuelled by the darker side.
The 11th Hour is the collaboration between Dutchman multi-instrumentalist Ed Warby (drummer for Gorefest, Hail of Bullets, as well as Ayreon/Star One) and vocalist Swede Rogga Johansson (the man behind countless bands such as Paganizer, Ribspreader, and The Grotesquery). In 2009 the duo created the critically acclaimed Burden of Grief, an album bleak and powerful in its sound and concept of a man dying from a lung disease as he struggles through his last days. Warby wrote and played every instrument with Johansson adding his disturbing impressive harsh vocal sounds. Though just a studio project the band did expand for a one-time performance at the 2009 Dutch Doom Days, a show so successful that further appearances at renowned doom festivals such as Germany’s Doom Shall Rise, Ireland’s Dublin Doom Day, and Spain’s Madrid Is the Dark followed, the result eventually seeing The 11th Hour becoming a full live band containing two members of Officium Triste and ex- Gorefest guitarist Frank Harthoorn.
2011 saw Warby begin working towards Lacrima Mortis and again he chose to play all instruments, as well as writing it and producing the impressive release. Due to illness which left his voice unable to find the depths needed Rogga Johansson had to step away from the album. With the band’s live vocalist Pim Blankenstein (Officium Triste) filling the gap the album was ensured full intensity, his deeply guttural growls and bile dripping delivery staggeringly impressive. Compared to Burden of Grief there is richer dare one say lighter feel on the new album in so much that the melodies and sheer creative variety of textures and atmosphere immerses one into a fuller more impactful experience. As with the previous album Lacrima Mortis is a mix of what feels like deeply personal experiences and elements taken from outside references.
The album latches on immediately from the opening track and captivates and intrudes equally right through to the last lingering note of the album. The stunning ‘We All Die Alone’ opens up the album with an initial entrance of sorrowful emotive keyboard and strings, haunting and mesmeric it soon is replaced with heavy riffs that pace around the ear like a predator. Warby’s almost drawl like rock vocals confidently tell the ‘narrative’ as the song stalks the senses., but when Blankenstein brings his malevolent venomous growls in alongside hauntingly emotive cinematic (Halloween?) keyboard play, the song rises like a glorious beast to even greater height. The song sums up the album before it has opened its arms fully giving an immediate indicator if you will like or love the album.
Lacrima Mortis is wonderfully composed, intricate and intelligent musically without being complicated and losing the release’s greatest element, the emotion. Tracks like ‘Rain On Me’ with an irresistible grind, the crushing immense emotive weight of ‘Nothing but Pain’ with some excellent senses caressing strings, and ‘Tears Of Me’ with its glorious journey from a vibrant pulse racing riff powered and hypnotic gothic keys beginning though to its evolution into a funereal black procession with inconsolable cries of a woman and powerful emotional inevitability, play emotions like they were instruments themselves to wonderful effect. Though there is not a weak track on the album these with the opener stand out with something fuller to capture the heart.
To be picky about the album one can offer up the fact that Warby’s vocals do not hold the strength the tracks offer musically at times but to be honest he more than delivers and compliments the songs and content with his ability and it is the impressive contribution of Blankenstein that works against him a little. Ed Warby has created and realised an impressive and thoroughly pleasing and powerful album. It holds a dark and deeply morose tone but never delves into morbidity giving a provoking but appreciative understanding of the theme inspiring Lacrima Mortis. 2012 has already started with a clutch of impressive releases and The 11th Hour is right at the forefront with Lacrima Mortis.