Album Review: Mother of Graves – Where The Shadows Adorn

Album Review: Mother of Graves - Where The Shadows Adorn
Reviewed by Sam Jones

Let’s take a look at some melodic death/doom for a change, in the form of Mother Of Graves. Formed in 2019 out of Indiana, United States, the band haven’t been active for too long but their output demonstrates their drive and commitment to their sound. The band released some Singles initially however it wouldn’t be until 2021’s In Somber Dreams EP where the band would really get their foot in the door. Now, a year on, the band are preparing to unveil their first full length release and especially with new Bassist Corey Clark being taken under their wings too. The artwork and first teasing listens to some of these tracks greatly piqued my curiosity and so I decided to check out the full thing in its entirety.

The guitar work has a great deal of melancholy to its sound, it isn’t entirely steeped in total doom, there’s room for the album to move around tonally. What I liked about the riffs here was how they weren’t always full chords, there were moments where the riffs could completely break down into more intricate affairs, singular notes being utilised to progress the songwriting. It allows the band to scale down the force of their sound from something that could be recognised as powerful, to something that’s far more vulnerable. There are also times where the songwriting completely falls away and we’ve only got the more gentle variant of guitar playing as the bass and drums play on in the background. It’s been some time since I encountered a death/doom record that was vying for this personal stance of sound. As a result the riffs never weigh down on us, it’s an extremely easy album to listen to since there’s very little the band employ to grate upon us.

The same notion extends to the vocal performance too. Instead of a delivery that is entirely focused towards devastation and gloom, the vocals capture the essence of despair by possessing a mid-level tone of delivery. It manages to harness the band’s style of death/doom without going too hard on the doomy nature of their sound. What’s more, is our capability to coherently understand what is being said and therefore our ability to follow along the oncoming verses and choruses. Where The Shadows Adorn wasn’t written to be this all-enveloping affair, but something we as the audience can become enamoured and lost within. It reminds me of what classic gothic and doom records wished to perform throughout their own works, the vocals weren’t there to create a suffocating soundscape but rather to immerse their audience in something that felt atmospherically believable. It’s no wonder then why the record, on the whole, comes off with a softer and almost absorbing quality. The vocals help us to sink right into this album and it’s startlingly comfortable to lie in as well.

Album Review: Mother of Graves - Where The Shadows Adorn

The overall soundscape is also a welcome find too. It’s been a while since I came across a death/doom album that wasn’t this concrete-dense, crushing performance. As mentioned beforehand, Mother Of Graves give us an old school death/doom record that enables their listeners to really go as far into the record as they’re capable of doing, in order to ensnare and consume them atmospherically. There may not be too many atmospheric elements forthright in our faces but it boils down to how the band conduct their songwriting and the force of their sound; they aren’t gunning for our throats here, it’s much more serene and tragic. The sound Mother Of Graves attempt is one that’s rich with harrowing, like a love lost to the ages. In this perspective, the band’s style of death/doom is much more intimate.

I loved how there were numerous, smaller elements flowing throughout this record that one might miss out on during their first listen here. You’ve got the piano section the beginning of the record which you’re unlikely to miss but then you see it come back later on, it’s nice to see small pieces of instrumentation return periodically throughout the album. You have a stronger death metal element of the guitar work also come into play from time to time, something which, owing to how you can become accustomed to the tone of the band’s riffs, may not become immediately apparent. There’s also the inclusion of subtle synthesiser work during a track like “The Emptiness Of Eyes”, it may not be massively in our faces but it adds a greater depth to the songwriting, especially when the acoustic guitar can be brought back either during the middle or the end of a certain song. Sometimes simply that secondary inclusion of an acoustic guitar in the frame of this record can make such an impact on the intimate nature of the doom herein. It was also nice to acknowledge some acoustic sections too, enabling the band to truly instil their atmosphere without needing their electric guitar variant at all times.

In conclusion, Mother Of Graves’ first album is a doom record that sticks to its guns and, while there are subtle infusions of death metal from time to time, it doesn’t try to move too far out of the box the band have constructed for themselves, which ends up being the sound the first song introduces us with. With that said however, Mother Of Graves do not play themselves into a corner; they give us a fully realised idea of what their sound is and then utilise elements sporadically to give their songwriting enough variety that listeners will only continue to be engaged with. Where The Shadows Adorn is a style of doom record that I don’t often visit, but every now and again I do enjoy something like this. You don’t need to prepare for any massive sonic assault, it’s rather inviting and comforting. Listening to this album is an easy experience and one that rewards your continued listening with a death/doom sound that, for a change, is rather light and melancholic.

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