At the beginning of the century, the Finnish band Shape Of Despair established themselves as one of the brightest realities of the funeral doom scene, thanks to a triptych of albums (Shades Of…, Angels Of Distress and Illusion’s Play) of excellent average level. The second album in particular is remembered as one of the absolute masterpieces of the genre and, in my hypothetical ranking, it firmly occupies one of the top five positions all time. After Illusion’s Play, the band created by Jarno Salomaa and Tomi Ullgrén took a long break, interrupted only by the ep Written In Scars in 2011 and the split album with Portuguese Before The Rain the following year. Salomaa’s participation in Daniel Neagoe’s Clouds made us hope that Shape Of Despair‘s activity would soon resume, and so it happened: having obtained a new deal with Season Of Mist and replaced the historical vocalist Pasi Koskinen with the excellent Henri Koivula from Throes Of Dawn, here we are talking about this Monotony Fields, an album that promises to be a sort of event for those who love funeral. It might have been too much to ask to reach the levels of Angel Of Distress, but this album comes very close, far surpassing the good but not exceptional Illusion’s Play. The Finns’ interpretation of the genre has an atmospheric mood that makes all the songs peculiar: Salomaa’s particular guitar touch and his keyboard lines make the listener fall into a vortex of melancholy that the vocal contribution of the always good Natalie Koskinen makes more bearable, without being able to erase the despair and the sense of inescapable tragedy that hovers over everyone’s existence. The sound of Shape Of Despair doesn’t repel but envelops, it doesn’t carry a hint of death by riding hostile and dissonant sounds or exploiting a merciless growl and granite riffs, but it mercifully accompanies the last vital breaths making the imminent separation bearable but not less dramatic. An hour and a quarter of languid and deadly poetry, with songs that grow after each listening, make Monotony Fields a virus that insinuates itself under the skin: the title track, Withdrawn and In Longing are the most shining gems of a work without weak points, if not the purely commercial one, containing six tracks of funeral doom, a genre that even in its highest expressions is still addressed to a limited number of sensitive souls. The re-release of Written Of Scars closes this wonderful monument to pain: don’t fear it and don’t recoil, its cathartic effect might surprise you beyond all expectations.
2015 – Season Of Mist