SHORES OF NULL is an Italian doom metal band founded in 2013. After releasing two acclaimed albums via Candlelight Records – “Quiescence” in 2014 and “Black Drapes for Tomorrow” in 2017, the five-piece left their comfort zone and pushed the limits of the songwriting. “Beyond the Shores (On Death and Dying),” out on 27 November 2020 via Spikerot Records, is a 38 minute long single track. What makes this album unique, in addition to the format, is the presence of many special guests: two titans of the international doom metal scene, such as Thomas A.G. Jensen of the Danish band SATURNUS, and Mikko Kotamäki of Finnish SWALLOW THE SUN. Add talented singer Elisabetta Marchetti of INNO under the keen eye of SHORES OF NULL’s long time producer, Marco Mastrobuono, who took care of recording, mixing, and mastering, and you have a pretty solid package.
The concept is based on the five stages of grief, formulated by the Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book “On Death and Dying.” Although death is a popular topic in many metal subgenres, the originality of the band’s approach lies in the perspective: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (also physically depicted in the five versions of the release on vinyl), are seen from the position of the dying person. The stages are not compartmentalized, but are intertwined to each other, as much as the hints in music and lyrics.
The song opens with the wind blowing: a storm is approaching, then the sound of a violin arises from afar like a lament. A heavy riff and solemn drums join, like a funeral procession. The chant begins with a referral to how bright the morning looks, while mixed feelings of loss take over; the narrator is aware that the end is near, but he is pervaded by inner peace, which suggests that he is accepting his own departure.
A rough change in the atmosphere occurs when Mikko Kotamäki delivers his iconic growls: “Why? Why me? This cannot be true. Aren’t we immortal?.” A reference to a punishing God suggests that denial is interconnected with anger, which takes over right after.
Denial is described as “a broken weapon,” basically useless at this point: the dying person is fighting “to pursue life,” but he’s also aware that all hope is gone and forces himself to “stop striving for illusory ends;” he’s ready. The day will come and he’ll be there. In this fragment, frontman Davide Straccione gives clear evidence of his skills, thanks to an almost screamed, intense, and colorful vocal style, to which are added the merciless screams of Martina L. McLean, the mind behind the band’s videoclips, who kindly loaned her voice. A faster tempo and more progressive elements provided by Raffaele Colace and Gabriele Giaccari on guitars, Emiliano Cantiano on drums, and Matteo Capozucca on bass, create the perfect structure for such a powerful moment.
The following part, significantly slower and heavier, has a strong prophetic vibe, considering how badly the band’s home country has been affected by the pandemic: “Life is at war with us,” Davide repeats, as a reminder of the helplessness of humankind at the presence of death. The main theme comes back and another special guest shows up: Thomas A.G. Jensen performs his legendary growls where the narrator sees himself as a “sinking wreck,” as a metaphor of dying.
A dramatic guitar sound and firmly doomish drumwork lead to the next phase where, unexpectedly, melodic guitars and rockish drums create a new soundscape. Davide’s clean vocals take over again and a feeling of fear, mixed with some kind of a comforting pain, pervades the narrator’s mind. Elisabetta Marchetti’s angelic voice joins Davide’s one at the turning point of the album, where the narrator acknowledges that he will “never regain what once has gone” and tries to make sure that this pain has meaning. Musically speaking, this fragment is more reminiscent of SWALLOW THE SUN’s funeral doom side, while the violin adds further pathos and solemnity.
After an instrumental interlude, another intense moment occurs. Davide, Elisabetta, and Mikko sing together about an invitation to grief, finally accepted as part of the journey. The previous line comes back as a reprise, then a piano interlude works as a bridge that leads to another peak in this piece of art: Thomas’ spoken-word. His voiceprint grants an undisputed extra-kick as he begs God to give him some more time, guiding into the “bargaining” stage of grief. Another reprise takes place, then the phase of acceptance becomes evident thanks to Thomas’ growls – there will be “no more anger, no more rage” in death, and a desired state of apathy suggests “depression” as the stage of grief paired with “acceptance.”
A rockish pattern provided by the rhythm section and guitars frames Davide’s dramatic voice: “Sit with me, hear this silence so loud as my own hands grow cold”; silence pervades the room along with the awareness of death, described as a servant, now approaching physically. A majestic blend of Thomas’ growls and Mikko’s screams summarizes the transience of life: “It ain’t forever. In a heartbeat we lose everything,” followed by Davide’s harmonized vocals, right after joined by the Finnish guest’s growls in an emotional duet. Slowness and heaviness come back again, enriched by a creative bassline: harmonization is added to the vocal line previously mentioned as “prophetic,” but a drastic change of pace steeped in epicness leads to the stage of acceptance again: “I’m ready for my departure. Yes, bid me farewell,” in an intense race “beyond the shores,” where “acceptance” finds its fulfilment. Coming to terms with fate is a “void of feelings,” where the “journey’s done.”
In conclusion, as the shore represents the limit to tear down, I would say that their aim has been achieved: such a complex piece of art marks a new standard even in a well-established style such as doom metal. SHORES OF NULL fully deserve to be considered among the current masters of the genre.
Written by Licia Mapelli
- Beyond the Shores (On Death and Dying)
Davide Straccione – Vocals
Gabriele Giaccari – Guitars
Raffaele Colace – Guitars
Matteo Capozucca – Bass
Emiliano Cantiano – Drums