Published Jun 16, 2015The greatest album review I've ever read was for Metallica's Load, in a forgotten Florida zine. It was one-and-a-half simple words: "'Nuff said."
Metallica also walked into easy criticism with Lulu, and older fans will recall Morgoth's infamously dismal Feel Sorry for the Fanatic. Now, Finland's funeral-doom denizens Shape of Despair do the same with the regrettably named Fields of Monotony. The title is somewhat truthful, if the album is consumed as a whole; all the tracks tend to share the same plodding pace.
Separated into its constituent cuts, however, the album is a joy to hear in a genre drowning in mediocrity. Ten-minute-long songs like "Reaching the Innermost," "Monotony Fields" and "Descending Inner Night" dominate the album, their dimensions strengthened by Henri Koivula's death vocals and Tomi Ullgrén's reverberating guitar chords, but Jarno Salomaa's haunting keyboards and Natalie Koskinen's backing vocals push the band ahead of their brethren. Even the shortest cut, the five-minute "The Distant Dream of Life," is a perfect single and representation of the band.
If Fields could be rendered in 3-D, the music would resemble that oneiric realm where reality is ethereal and images fade away into oblivion. Not Type O Negative enough for casual fans, and way too extreme for goth kids, Shape of Despair remain funeral doom's best-kept secret. (Season of Mist)