VEIL OF SECRETS is a new doom-flavored metal endeavor hailing from Norway. It marks the long-awaited return of former TRISTANIA-singer Vibeke Stene, alongside Asgeir Mickelson, whose drumming chops we have previously heard on numerous releases by BORKNAGAR, SARKE, SPIRAL ARCHITECT, and other pedigree metal outfits. As though carrying the legacy of the dark and sentimental metal aesthetics of TRISTANIA, the debut album of these Norwegian doomsters mixes the ethereal symphonic beauty of Stene’s operatic soprano and slow-crushing metal riffing. The outing is titled ”Dead Poetry” and it was released on November 30th, 2020, via Crime Records.
The guttural growls of Erling Malm (ENDOLITH, ARTICULUS) and the haunting violin legatos played by Sareeta (RAM–ZET, ex-ÁSMEGIN) further stretch the polar opposites of the brutal and the serene. The most notable difference, compared to the duo’s previous efforts, is the sense of impending doom that builds up through painstakingly melancholic, ponderous, and somber guitar melodies in substantially slow tempos. One internet connoisseur described the music as being reminiscent of the late-1980s METALLICA but frosted with symphonic doom layers. At first, I could not bring myself to agree, but after a few listens, I must say that this somewhat controversial view was not entirely wrong. There is something essentially old-schoolish in the way the melodic and harmonic secrets are unveiled on the album.
The opening track, ”The Last Attempt,” was released as a single on November 13th, with a lyric video. Things are set in motion with a steamroller-riffage, to which Stene‘s operatic lamenting creates a nice contrast with the song’s contemplative lyrical lines about painful endings and new beginnings. Halfway through the song, the staccato riffage gives way to a more plaintive plateau of spacious, clean arpeggios, upon which Sareeta‘s violin introduces a whole new layer of doom. There is something inherently cinematic and evocative in this sonic mixture. Maybe it derives from the classical elements, the vocals and the violin motifs, being juxtaposed with the brutal-sounding metal growls and riffs. Due to the remarkably sinister mood of the album, the songs on ”Dead Poetry” would probably fit in the soundtrack of an episode of Criminal Minds rather than some utterly romantic drama.
Some of the song titles seem as though derived from some ancient form of English. ”Bryd” could be an old Middle English word for ”bride” and ”Fey” could be Scottish for ”doomed” or ”fated to die.” Resonating with the air of Gothic Romanticism, such connotations would at least fall quite nicely in line with the songs’ tradition-savvy metal aesthetics. Doom metal has never really been my cup of tea, to be honest, apart from some of the most mainstreamish artists of the genres. Nonetheless, I found ”Dead Poetry” quite pleasing and interesting new album. I would assume that it cannot really be deemed to be either, in the most puristic musical sense. The guitar harmonies sound thick and heavy in a true doom metal fashion, but I’m not sure if the tempos are slowed-down properly. Then again, what the hell do I know: I don’t really listen to doom metal. I like PARADISE LOST, though, and I can sense some sort of musical kinship here. In a way, the guitar riffs and clean passages also have that early-METALLICA twist, but only played slower here. The internet warrior had a point.
The one aspect on VEIL OF SECRETS‘ debut that makes it stand out from the multitude of other doomsters is obviously Stene‘s celestial voice. It is truly penetrating, so that even without channeling all your powers of perception, her singing soon starts to feel like removing a disguise, a veil of secrets (sic!) – and therein lies the power of these songs. The music easily fills your head with vivid impressions, like miniature motion pictures, and even the title of the album is also charged with somewhat cinematic connotations. It is strongly reminiscent of the late-1980s drama film, Dead Poets Society, starring Robin Williams and Ethan Hawke. The sad ending of the film as well as the plaintive overtones of VEIL OF SECRETS‘ new album both seem to verify that the freedom of youthful dreams usually comes with a price. ”Dead Poetry” is an album that plunges into great depths in order to convince you that music, love, and death are a triangle of sorts.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- The Last Attempt
- Sear the Fallen
- Remorseful Heart
- The Lie Of Her Prosperity
Vibeke Stene – vocals
Asgeir Mickelson – drums, guitar, bass
Erling Malm – growls
Sareeta – violin