While Heaven Wept - Of Empires Forlorn
Rage Of Achilles
Melodic Doom Metal
7 songs (43'15")
Release year: 2003
Rage Of Achilles
Reviewed by Alex
Surprise of the month

If you read the band’s name, While Heaven Wept, and did not feel a twinge of sorrow doom metal must be not your thing. I also thought melodic doom metal wasn’t Rage of Achilles (British based label) thing, with them concentrating more on extreme metal acts. Alas, melodic doom metal is what this Virginia band plays. And, my pensive soul be damned, they play it well.

Even though some of the songs on Of Empires Forlorn were written way back in 1991, this 2003 recorded album must be the band’s debut. In fact, The End Records, which distributes the album exclusively, mentioned this is a reissue of the 1,000 copies first pressing on Eibon Records.

The name of the game for While Heaven Wept is slow moving songs with plenty of mournful melodies. The band does not downtune, distort, heavily chug or imitate Black Sabbath, Candlemass, St. Vitus or Trouble in any manner. Instead, Tom Philips (vocals, guitars, keyboards, main composer) leads the way with Harmony. Yes, Harmony from the capital letter. At times it seems that dual guitars, keyboards, and above all, vocals gel together into one willowy unadulterated Harmony river. Vocals, though, is what might turn off some of the people with the love for the more conventional gruff doom vocals. I admit that it is what I expected, and it took me a few listens to finally come around and become a believer. Instead of the bottom-of-the-barrel moan Tom Phillips offers a stunningly clear and, as above says, overly harmonized vocal display. Such delivery provides a stark contrast of hope to the lyrics full of hopelessness and despair. Here and there Tom Phillips even throws a few higher notes worthy of a high pitched power metal vocalist. Also, the title track offers two lines grunted out in a death metal voice, although the latter is somewhat not befitting of the rest of the album.

The opener The Drowning Years sets the tone with its slow doomsday bell sounding beginning. The song accelerates all the way towards the end and finishes with a profound double bass by Jason Gray. The lyrics of the song is about alcoholism (at least that is what I think), but the overall approach to the music and clean vocals provide hope for a sufferer. More up-tempo and riff driven In Aeternum contrasts well with folksy and mellow Epistle No. 81 with both songs spanning the spectrum for While Heaven Wept. The only track that I wasn’t jumping up and down for (or should I say crying myself a river) was Voice in the Wind. I understand the song was composed in 1977 and has been reworked, but it sounds almost poppy with those synthesizers. In fact, synthetic sounding keyboards are something While Heaven Wept would do great without. Their music is so honest and organic it would benefit much more from the authentic piano when it gets to ivory tinkling.

Of Empires Forlorn has been a great surprise to me and I am going to label it as such. This is one great doom album which borders on mellow yet really expresses the grief and sorrow obligatory for a doom metal band. This is one album which will alleviate a listener’s distress without reaching for a pistol pointing to your temple.

Killing Songs :
All songs are of even equally good quality
Alex quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by While Heaven Wept that we have reviewed:
While Heaven Wept - Suspended At Aphelion reviewed by Joel and quoted 90 / 100
While Heaven Wept - Vast Oceans Lachrymose reviewed by Alex and quoted 89 / 100
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