SHORES OF NULL – The Loss Of Beauty
RELEASE YEAR: 2023
BAND URL: https://www.shoresofnull.com/
In my review of the Italian melodic death/doom metallers Shores Of Null’s one track third full length Beyond The Shores (On Death And Dying)²⁰²⁰ (5/6) I necessarily compared it to both Edge Of Sanity’s Crimson¹⁹⁹⁴ and Insomnium’s Wintergate²⁰¹⁶ the former had inspired, but I concluded that it was inferior to them in a single aspect: balance of light and dark. I didn’t find it as coherent and smooth as either Crimson¹⁹⁹⁴ or Winter’s Gate²⁰¹⁶, both of which it had a lot in common with, and I felt that, while the melodic, catchy side of this 34:24 minute song-album was impeccably fantastic, the extreme and the deathly had not been given enough space to breathe, except for one unnerving brilliant violin-guitar dissonant part and one fast death metal part and, finally, that whenever it got slow it tended to drag a little bit too long before moving on to the not always so smooth transitions. Little did I know that Beyond The Shores²⁰²⁰ production sessions had produced not one but two albums, with the other one, The Loss Of Beauty²⁰²³ (released on March 24th on Spikerot Records and courtesy of Jon Asher and his Asher Media Relations) the subject of this review, or that what ended up as their fourth album had originally been planned as the third (to follow Quiescence²⁰¹⁴ and Black Drapes For Tomorrow²⁰¹⁷, both on Candlelight Records), however, the year 2020 having been as terrible as it was for almost every one on the planet Earth (probably not too shabby for the 1% who made a whopping fortune on the essential medical supplies), Shores Of Null, that is, Davide Straccione (lead vocals), Gabriele Giaccari (guitars, backing vocals), Raffaele Colace (guitars, backing vocals), Matteo Capozucca (bass, backing vocals) and Emiliano Cantiano (drums) decided to release Beyond The Shores²⁰²⁰, which, based on the five stages of grief formulated by the Swiss American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, was more appropriate an album for the times. Whether or not that makes The Loss Of Beauty²⁰²³ (not sure if pun intended) more attractive today is debatable but, either way, it is a fantastic release where we finally have that elusive balance in spades.
The rich, complex and vibrant texture of this near masterpiece is evident most through the two perfect songs and perfect video choices, “Nothing Left To Burn” and “The Last Flower” where late 90s early 2000s Katatonia meets My Dying Bride, Amorphis, Be’lakor, Swallow The Sun and Barren Earth among others for a cup of steaming hot red blood of a man who has a horrifying time accepting the impernamence of everything and everyone. And, my gosh, Davide Straccione, I don’t know if I missed this vocal maestro on Beyond The Shores²⁰²⁰ but I am floored by the operatic depth and the emotion it inspires in me when I hear “we’re marching through the flaaaaaaames with nothing left to buuuuurn” (and, as a side note, I really got this song at a very “nothing left to burn while marching through the flames” moment in my life, a perfect time to really sink my ears deep into The Loss Of Beauty²⁰²³). In my opinion, the man is only comparable to Barren Earth’s Jón Aldará (whom he sounds a lot like in just that particular place), in this regard. He has a fairly unique, a little dreamy Aaron Stainthorpe (My Dying Bride) in calm cleans and Tomi Joutsen (Amorphis) in highs which flactuates into Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost) and Paul Kuhr (Novembers Doom), even in the deep gutturals, and there’s even a little bit of Howard Jones (ex-Killswitch Engage) in the parts of “My Darkest Years”, but it’s his cleans which are often what makes the melodies so memorable in the fantastic creative choruses such as those in “A Nature In Disguise” or the shoegazing “Fading As One”.
Already those two tracks, which are incredibly varied and where every note is of a magnifiscently addictive quality (which is my standard for perfection 6/6), show that Shores Of Null (purposely abbreviated SON?) are not merely capable of light and dark and slow and fast balance the likes of Barren Earth or Opeth are known for but they ride it like an Apache his horse. But wait, there’s more, wait until you hear the fantastic part progressive black metal “A Nature In Disguise” (heck, I even hear a bit of grungy Nirvana!) in where SON rivals the mighty Enslaved, maybe a bit too close for comfort, especially vocally, but oh well, when it’s this good who really cares, with Davide handling cleans, shouts, growls, rasps and whatever else can reasonably be considered a vocalization! And those melodies – just check out the third perfect track and the third perfect video single, the first song proper, “Destination Woe” which inspired my designation of SON as melodic doom/death metal, a perfect mix of melodeath and death/doom, with Insomnium chasing Be’lakor and Swallow The Sun melancholy. Gabriele Giaccari and Raffaele Colace are pure guitar magic, be it a melody, a solo or an aggresive riff, basically a thoroughly guitar album for guitar lovers. Matteo Capozucca (bass) and Emiliano Cantiano (drums) are great at any pace but the tightness of the section is best exemplified in the more deathly parts, such as in “Nothing Left To Burn”, the melodeathly “Old Scars” or the excellent fourth video single “My Darkest Years” and “A New Death Is Born” which strongly recall Novembers Doom in every aspect. I love the little late 90s Paradise Lost melodies the album is sprinkled with in too many tracks to mention by name and how every time I listen to the record I hear little nuggets of gold my brain previously failed to register. And Marco “Cinghio” Mastrobuono’s production is perfect for such wide cocophony of sounds at different tones and paces. With everything changing so suddenly and unexpectedly yet tastefully, as if to mimic the album’s theme of impermanence of it all, it would be really easy to register something too low or too high in the mix but not for Mastrobuono who has everything at the right place and at the right time, in a word – masterful! Why not 6/6, then?
Well, the first half of the album seems a little more varied then the largely in the same vein second (with all the 3 perfect tracks in the first) plus there is one song (Darkness Won’t Take Me) which is very good but could have been comparatively more varied and only three tracks are perfect, but I’m hasting to admit that 1. I have very high standards for this, probably my favorite genre, and 2. the initial rating for most of the songs used to be lower and they keep growing on me incredibly fast. My usual gripe is about instrumentals not being parts of the subsequent songs and here, the intro “Transitory” would have worked better as part of “Destination Woe” (I get strong Insomnium vibes from that trick) and the weird but gorgeous instrumental dirge “The First Son” would have been better as one with “A Nature In Disguise”, especially since its last piano chord ends there, it would have given it that Morningrise¹⁹⁹⁶ Opeth vibe. The last thing is not a gripe, but an admonition since the excellent “Underwater Oddity” and the instrumental “Blazing Sunlight” are listed in the promo as bonuses while they fit the regular 11 tracks very well and the latter track closes the album very well at 54:56 with 13 tracks total.
With all that said, I feel that 5.5 is as fair far as I can get here. I can’t even imagine what these guys will come up with for the follow up but I’m sure it’ll blow me away again. Highly recommended.