AlbumsJanuary 16, 20233,222 views

AHAB The Coral Tombs

The Coral Tombs
1. Prof. Arronax’ descent into the vast oceans feat. Ultha 2. Colossus of the liquid graves 3. Mobilis in mobili 4. The sea as a desert 5. A Coral tomb 6. Ægri somnia 7. The Mælstrom feat. Esoteric
2023 Napalm Records
Our score 9


“The sea is the be all and end all,” Captain Nemo says in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  For German doom metal mainstays, AHAB that line must certainly ring true, themselves named for the infamous sea captain of Moby-Dick.  Self-proclaimed as Nautik Funeral Doom, each of the band’s albums has been conceptually based upon maritime themes, citing works that include the Herman Melville book that provided their namesake (2006’s The Call of The Wretched Sea), Edgar Allen Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (2012’s The Giant) and William Hope Hodgson’s The Boats of the Glen Carrig (2015’s album of the same title).  It is a motif appropriate for a band that creates music that is as vast as it is powerful, and as alluring as it is hostile; a fitting sonic metaphor for the open seas.

The Coral Tombs, AHAB’s fifth album in nineteen years follows suit, this time drawing from French author Jules Verne’s nautical adventure novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. With the tale as the backdrop to the record, the band embarks on a journey of sound both abrasive and delicate.  All of the elements that have made AHAB leaders of the genre are certainly present — the ebb and flow between crushing heaviness and somber serenity, the big open ringing chords, and of course the glacially paced rhythms — the difference here is how it is all presented.

The Coral Tombs feels more grandiose than their earlier albums, even cinematic in presentation. The songs navigate through movements, disregarding conventional structures. The album’s inaugural 60 seconds are the most surprising, with opening number “Prof. Arronax Descent Into The Vast Ocean” kicking off with a blast of black metal.  With ULTHA’s Chris Noir and Esoteric’s Greg Chandler aboard, the track traverses a wide breadth of sound, mirroring the source material’s opening frantic search for a mythical sea entity and resolving to an ethereal clean section as the story’s narrator is taken in on Nemo’s submarine Nautilus.

If the band’s dedication to doing justice to Verne’s classic text doesn’t impress you, the album stands on its own musically. AHAB have no qualms about stretching beyond the genre’s confines, adding the more ambient, spacier elements heard in the intro section of “The Sea As a Desert”, and even vocalist Daniel Drost’s use of clean singing amongst his death growls and piercing screams.  Throughout, the guitars of Drost and Christian Hector complement each other, at some points creating complex layers, at others joining in harmony.

Make no mistake, this is a funeral doom album through and through, but it is perhaps a masterclass on it.  It’s the juxtaposition of concepts like the blasting double kick of the death metal infused “Mobilis in Mobili” and the contrasting restraint of “A Coral Tomb” that make the album stand out.  It’s the same dedication to songcraft and superb musicianship on display on The Coral Tombs that have gotten AHAB the reputation as one of the best to do it.

Bottomline: AHAB have done it again. Along with every other record in their catalogue, The Coral Tombs is an engaging listen and a fine example of how to approach the funeral doom style.  Couple the outstanding music with a perfectly executed concept and you have the gold standard for the genre.

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anonymous 1/16/2023 2:18:54 PM

Luckily for you, no matter how much these suck, there's no way it can be more cringe and pathetic than that Lionheart review.