Published Jul 17, 2014Novembers Doom occupy the venerable position of being one of the earliest doom metal bands in North America — since forming in 1989, they've had an immense influence upon the genre on both sides of the ocean. Despite their heritage, founding member/vocalist Paul Kuhr is quick to push back against attempts to label what they do as simply doom.
"I have to be completely honest: I don't consider Novembers Doom part of that genre. Not at all," Kuhr tells Exclaim! on the eve of releasing their ninth studio album Bled White. "We're the kind of band that started with those doom roots, but after the first album, we moved on. We have so many influences in what we do that the only one thing that keeps it all together is that it is always dark. To pigeonhole us into one genre is almost criminal. Putting us in that doom metal category turns us off to fans that might not like doom metal, but assume that we're a part of that genre and won't even give us a chance. I believe that's held us back all these years; it's one of those pigeonholes we've never been able to get out of."
Kuhr blames lazy journalism, in part, for the tendency to rigidly define Novembers Doom across such genre lines.
"I notice that the majority — 85 percent — of journalists are overwhelmed with releases and their writing. I think it's much easier to simply compare them to another band instead of writing a description of what they've heard. I've always taken offence to that, because when we've put two years of writing, rewriting — when we put that much time and effort into everything we do and then to have someone sit down with that and review it in 10 minutes, just to compare it to this band and that band and there it is, that's insulting. But I get it. If you have a stack of 10 CDs, you don't have the time to really sit down and absorb them."
Rather than defining themselves according to a specific genre or movement, Novembers Doom prefer to think of themselves as a confluence of many influences, coupled with the desire to explore numerous creative avenues and directions.
"I wanted to be as heavy as Grave, with the melodic sound of Celtic Frost," Kuhr proclaims, when speaking of his group's origins. "There were a lot of bands that helped my ideas. For my clean vocals, I wanted them to be like Forbidden; I wanted clarity to my growl, and that came from Chicago bands like Devastation and Syndrome. I had all these ideas and I put them together."
Continuing to push, explore and add influences has defined Novembers Doom throughout their career, and this is again evident on Bled White. A wrenching, emotional effort, Kuhr and company employed a different approach than the typical guitar-driven sound.
"[Guitarist] Larry [Roberts] said he wanted to try writing a little bit differently, leaving more room so it would be the vocals that carried the record," Kuhr says.
This decision to "leave the space for the vocals to have a more dominant role" allowed the room for harmonies, vocal melodies and the developing of a deeper emotional register, letting the voice be the guide through Bled White's narrative.
"There is nowhere to hide on this record," Kuhr states, intending the intensity of his performance and lack of respite he allowed himself during the writing to translate into a deeper connection for the listener.
Bled White is out now on the End Records.