Shape of Despair - Monotony Fields
Season Of Mist
Funeral Doom Metal
8 songs (74'24")
Release year: 2015
Shape of Despair, Season Of Mist
Reviewed by Alex

I have a pretty interesting relationship with the Finnish Shape of Despair. As much as I love funeral doom, and as much as Shape of Despair fits the tenets of the genre (I often quote them as an example), I do not consider the Finns to be one of my favorites. Don’t get me wrong, I own both Angels of Distress and Illusion’s Play, but I own many albums I don’t come back to often enough. There is just something missing for me in the slow atmospheric dirges Shape of Despair plows forth with that aligns our wavelengths completely.

So, given that I am aware of the band’s existence (just witness a pair of the earlier reviews for the site) I wasn’t actively hunting for Shape of Despair next album, but then given Season of Mist released one recently, I felt that same strange obligation to give Monotony Fields a shot, to see if this time it would click.

A very succinct answer to the aforementioned expectation would be “not quite”, yet Monotony Fields did it for me in spots. Gone is longtime vocalist Pasi Koskinen, replaced by Henri Koivula, whose growls are just as bottomless and heartfelt, a staple in Shape of Despair. The rest of the band stayed very much intact and funeral doom presented by the Finns remains to be very slow and entirely atmospheric. Keyboards by Jarno Salomaa play just as prominent a role as they did before, yet just like before this instrument for Shape of Despair is rarely in a leading role, instead providing the all-saturating background, making the experience strangely icy vs. warmth provided through bass/guitar interplay, as in Descending Inner Night. Where keyboards actually play a leading riff Withdrawn, they truly provide that transformational touch of melody which is missing for me in some of the songs on Monotony Fields.

My main problem uncomprehending Shape of Despair fully is still the very stagnant nature of their music, which leaves me emotionless while making me stare forward blankly. And I am an experienced funeral doom fan, so there is no expectation of dynamics of any sort. There is no better example of being completely static than the title track, the name absolutely befitting the music. Shape of Despair just manage to pile layer upon layer atop this giant glacial field, and once this mass starts moving under its own weight, the experience is breathtaking (Reaching the Innermost). Yet more often than not the massive glacier just remains stuck in one place (title track, Descending Inner Night), or even if there was some melodic movement after the frozen entry (The Blank Journey), guitar riffs just manage to drive it completely in a rut.

A very interesting role on Monotony Fields is given to a female vocalist Natalie Koskinen. Most of the album, except a brief duet with Koivula on The Blank Journey, she is non-verbal, just singing fantastically melancholic ah-ahs, angelic laments of sorts, floating above the rest, trying to elevate and relax the soul. She is a force just about everywhere and whenever present, sounding like its own instrumental layer in the re-recorded Written in My Scars, applying the opening pressure for 2.5 min in In Longing, or taking us up to the cathedral’s ceiling at the end of Reaching the Innermost.

If you were a fan of Shape of Despair before, I believe you will hail Monotony Fields as a triumphant return after a long break. Me, while still giving the band my highest respect, I still cannot add them to the list of my funeral doom darlings.

Killing Songs :
Reaching the Innermost, Withdrawn, In Longing
Alex quoted 75 / 100
Other albums by Shape of Despair that we have reviewed:
Shape of Despair - Illusions Play reviewed by Alex and quoted 60 / 100
Shape of Despair - Angels of Distress reviewed by Alex and quoted 79 / 100
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