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While Heaven Wept - 2003 Of Empires Forlorn



ARTIST: While Heaven Wept
ALBUM: Of Empires Forlorn
LABEL: Eibon
SERIAL: WHW041
YEAR: 2003
CD REISSUE: 2010, Cruz Del Sur, CRUZ46

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Tom Phillips - vocals, guitars, keyboards * Jim Hunter - bass * Scott Loose - guitars * Jason Gray - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 The Drowning Years * 02 Of Empires Forlorn * 03 Voice In The Wind * 04 In Aeturnum * 05 Soulsadness * 06 Epistle No.81 * 07 Sorrow Of The Angels

RATING:

WEBLINKS: www.whileheavenwept.com


Background
What is music? Why is it important? My favourite explanation is taken from the book 'Blondel's Song' by David Boyle which explains how music was found to discover the location on the imprisoned Richard the Lionheart, Boyle states 'where music had the power to find missing kings and where it could speed regents into the next world'. I find this album, the second from this American quartet having the view of acknowledging the importance of music, and like medieval troubadours, look to climb the castle walls and take gothic cathedrals in search of their primary objective to produce stunning music. While Heaven Wept can be summed up as progressive, doom, together with more orchestral pointers than many in this genre, the odd chugging moment coupled with sweeping movements and somewhat similar paced throughout the album, but all essentially different. It's a real banquet of differing tastes and flavours. They very much take a classical route to many of their compositions. The most noticeable difference between this and the 2009 follow up is that team leader, Tom Phillips takes care of the vocals here. Yes it does make a difference, as the vocals on the 2009 release by Rain Irving do show an improvement, but nevertheless Tom's display is still worthy enough to make this album essential listening. Strangely for this type of group I hear a lot more simplicity about the songs then compared to technical progressive groups and this is one of the reasons why it sounds so immense, its symphonies are more back to basic arithmetic rather than simultaneous equations or algebra.


The Songs
'The Drowning Years' is a pioneering opening, again mid paced like many of the selections. The vocals are a touch understated as the music dominates the scenery. This is not tepid doom; there is a significant increase in the temperature, with the melodies chasing themselves, to an impressive crescendo.

Sea sounds and acoustic strumming, the journey continues with the drums raining down plus Black Metal style noise which opens the title track, chugging guitars add to the cathedral style vocals, absolutely spectacular. The time and effect to complete this album and the spirit to achieve excellence is a bit like the repeated scene from the film 'The Agony And The Ecstasy' where Rex Harrison playing the role of the Pope repeatedly asks Charlton Heston who plays Michelangelo when he will be completing the painting on the ceiling on the Sistine Chapel, 'when will you make an end to it? When it is finished..', well it is now done and it has the grandeur to equal that Chapel ceiling, and what a masterpiece. Waves of haunting melodies hit before the tide covers up the remaining aspects of life.

'Voice In The Wind' is a different kettle of fish, not unlike 'All Together Now' by The Farm, strange! This is an accomplished track, very much a suite of music and not spoiled by droning music or harsh vocals, a victory for the more adventurous melodic listener.

'In Aeturnum', is more early Queensryche and Fates Warning, as the song dates back to 1991 you can hear a different approach - with a more direct style. Although it spirals out of control and lands firmly in the Candlemass basket, but with a perfectly seamless transition.

With the type of music While Heaven Wept produce, the vocals are second to the overall musicianship of the songs, the instrumental parts are the most important and vocals are not the prominent feature and doesn't need to be, now how many albums do you find that this scenario being the main driving force behind the enjoyment of the record? How many times would you play FM or Tyketto without vocals?

'Soul Sadness' it is back to familiar territory, more power to the guitars, while the verses tend to be predictable, the chorus section (unsurprisingly for a chorus I know) is memorable and more melodic, dominating again by more melodic doom (possible a new genre?) sections. Beautiful piano is the backdrop for a spoken intermission, before as usual a fine ending and even Geoff Tate like screams.

'Epistle No 81', is based on a traditional song from the 18th century from the Swedish composer Carl Michael Bellman, believe it or not there is a previous interpretation by Candlemass. Now there's a surprise! It's probably the only track that doesn't particular keep my interest, however being the shortest on the album it doesn't make a significant impact on the overall quality.

We end with 'Sorrow Of The Angel', incidentally the title of the debut album. It contains some progressive keyboards which help as it was becoming a touch one dimensional (which can be the main criticism of similar albums in this genre) and this part of the tune seems to be a turning point, as it has more in common with prog veterans Glass Hammer. It seems to end abruptly; maybe there is an extended version in the archives.

Fine songs, excellent presentations, each element has exact specifications. One note, the original had the track, 'From Empires To Oceans' which has been replaced by 'In Aeturnum'.


In Summary
What is it about While Heaven Wept that I enjoy? Well one point is that so many of the songs are quite instant, which wouldn't be a surprise if they were 3 minute pop songs, but when they are mammoth length symphonies they become a very special band indeed. Not wanting to contradict myself but another strength is that some parts take a while to discover so it will be some time before you fully complete the album and understand it, like a strategy computer game. Many different paths to take, depending on your listening mood. An album full of riddles that only time spent will entangle them, although it maybe until the next solar eclipse. A beautiful piece of music. It's great to see this album being re-released; these songs have been kept under a dust cover for far too long.


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