Shape Of Despair – Return to the Void

Listening to funeral doom is never something that can be dismissed in a short space of time, with the classic touch and go. No, this is music that has to be explored in its depths and, above all, it’s not something to be hastily removed when it does not want to reach its final destination, the heart of the listener. Let’s not get around it: a little more than twenty years ago Shape of Despair recorded Angels of Distress, one of the most beautiful records ever, and when you reach certain heights of lyricism and evocative power, you have to deal with it with every release, because the comparison becomes inevitable and probably penalising for any new work. Illusions’ Play was crushed three years later by the greatness of its predecessor, while Monotony Fields was in 2015 the longed-for comeback that every fan would have wished. After another long silence, the new Return to the Void leaves some doubt at first impact, because it lacks those emotionally shattering passages that were the hallmark of the above-mentioned masterpiece, as well as in several parts of the previous full length. All this goes through your head until you realise that Return to the Void gives you an hour of suffused sadness, without particular jolts but so continuous and incessant to leave you breathless. Today’s Shape of Despair offer a shroud of pain that envelops, a sort of grey cocoon that slowly imprisons the listener, making him fall into a further insidious and dead-end condition than when the pain in music is expressed in more lacerating ways. The inescapable melancholy that Jarno Salomaa and Tomi Ullgrén erect, patiently placing one brick after another, is heightened by the caressing vocal interventions of the always punctual Natalie Koskinen, alternating almost equally with the growl of the excellent Henri Koivula. The peculiar style of the Finnish band is outlined along six tracks fundamentally similar in rhythm and mood, and these characteristics may in the long run leave some perplexity in those who would like more variations on the theme, even if Solitary Downfall and Reflection in Slow Time are two tracks in which the writing becomes more dramatic, ending up being in my opinion the emotional fulcrum of the album. Shape of Despair represent perfectly the gradual approach of humanity to its end, doing it in an almost painless way, without particular jolts or rebellion motions. Even if it’s not the masterpiece that everyone would expect when the big names of funeral appear on the proscenium, Return to the Void remains a great work, whose consistent uniformity will be the cross and delight of every listener but, at the same time, will allow to amplify the cathartic effect of the most intense moments, sparingly scattered along the various tracks.

2002 – Season Of Mist