Released: 2011, Avantgarde Music
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Within the first 90-seconds of Before the Rain’s latest opus, FRAIL, I knew I was going to love it. The gothic melancholy of the guitars, the pained vocals, the and the immediately pervasive sadness ensconce the listener so quickly, that you have no choice but to surrender to its weight. Okay, so maybe that’s a little dramatic, but so is FRAIL. The Portuguese quintet has been around since the late 90’s, building their own brand of ambient doom in the vein of My Dying Bride, early-Anathema and Paradise Lost, and in 2007 released the tragically underappreciated …ONE DAY LESS. Recently, the band revamped 3/5 of its lineup, and in the coup of the season recruited ex-Morgion vocalist Gary Griffith into the fold (SOLINARI rules, check it out kids), which is to say – wonderful. The resulting album, FRAIL, is 75 sulking, wrist slitting, pensive moon gazing bliss.
The whole gothic/doom genre became severely oversaturated in the late 90-early 00’s; too many bands jumping on the bandwagon, thinking that all you needed to do was write some dark, cheeky poetry and play in low, minor-keys to pass the bar. But the reality that it’s infinitely easier to get the formula wrong than it is to get it right, and its one of the main reasons was the aforementioned progenitors of the scene always stood far in front of the pack. Before the Rain gets the formula oh, so right. The first thing that stands out on FRAIL is the sheer massive scope of the album. When the shortest track on the album clocks in at 9-minutes, you know you’re in for a long haul, but how that journey is presented makes all the difference.
The songs are complex, sullen narratives with layers of subtle ambience that slowly assemble into skyscrapers of doom. But it’s not overwrought with sappy symphonics or female sopranos; it’s a reserved execution solely relying on the strengths of the five band members, and for me that speaks volumes. The other thing that stands out is Griffith’s vocal diversity – he’s got the smooth, clear delivery when the passages call for it, as well as the guttural death bark for the more aggressive components. Though the 6 tunes on FRAIL are all lengthy, ambient laments, they each bear different personality traits that allow for some balance throughout the album. “And the World Ends There” has an underlying bitterness, while “Breaking the Waves” gets downright angry before washing out into a simple guitar strain that feeds into the almost positive vibe of “A Glimpse Towards the Sun.” Simple nuances, yes, but wholly effective.
Maybe it’s just been too long since I’ve heard a band play this style of doom so exceptionally, but regardless, Before the Rain effortlessly hits all the right marks on FRAIL. It’s a powerful opus that recalls the best of the genre while giving it some new life. FRAIL should be available in early June, check out the band’s website for more info.