Written by: MST on 02/07/2014 04:09:53

In the enormous world of melancholic doom metal, Johan Ericson is an important figure. Aside from being a founding member of the Swedish gothic doom metal band Draconian, his solo project, Doom:vs, has put out some outstanding death/doom records. 2008's "Dead Words Speak" still holds a special place in my heart, so naturally I was excited to get into "Earthless", Ericson's first Doom:vs album in six years. But "Earthless" is special in another way: it isn't exactly a solo album all the way through like the other albums were, since vocal duties have been almost entirely handed over to none other than Thomas A. G. from Saturnus.

As expected, slow and heavy is the name of the game on "Earthless". Ericson's melancholic riffing follows the simple, slow drum work with atmospheric keyboards adding an additional element to the soundscape. Thomas A. G.'s crushing guttural vocals enhance the mournful nature of the music by telling Ericson's stories of loss and despair quite well at times, but not always - we'll get to that later. Ericson adds a bit of clean vocals in the last two songs, but the deep growls that most of us know from Saturnus dominate the vocal landscape on the album. On album highlight "White Coffins", the addition of Thomas A. G. proves to be very effective, as his thundering roar perfectly fits the soundscape of the song.

The album has been received with praise since its release, and I agree with it to the point that "Earthless" is a very good record. But I might be one of very few who think that Thomas A. G. is a slightly overrated vocalist, and that Ericson's own vocals that narrated the previous records might fit Ericson's style better. I definitely miss the combination of his growls in the verses and the powerful woeful clean vocals in the choruses of some of the best songs found in Ericson's repertoire. Sometimes it's not about the sound of a specific vocalist, but the feeling with which he can perform his material. Thomas A. G.'s vocals don't always come off sounding very inspired on "Earthless" - at least from this writer's observations - and thus the vocals sadly drag the album down a bit for me.

Criticism aside, Doom:vs continues to be a leading force in melancholic doom metal and delivers as always, although not as convincingly as I had hoped for. There's very little innovation on "Earthless", but that's generally not what you want artists like Ericson to aim for. What you want them to do is write great doom metal, and they will deliver pretty much without exception.

Download: Earthless, White Coffins, The Slow Ascent
For The Fans Of: Saturnus, Draconian, Mourning Beloveth, Shape Of Despair
Listen: Facebook

Release date 05.05.2014
Solitude Productions

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