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Death The Leveller ‎– II LP (black)

€15.90

I can’t say I understand the semantics behind labeling II as Death the Leveller’s first full-length album. In addition to that chronological title, its thirty-eight minutes runtime and lengthy four-track template are the same as on 2017’s I. Either way, this effort showcases the group’s distinctly Irish approach to epic doom metal quite nicely. The pacing is consistently slow, with a bright tone supporting a mystical aura drawing on bygone Celtic legend. The results don’t quite go into folk or epic metal territory, but it isn’t too far off from the contemplative sides of bands like DoomSword and Atlantean Kodex, among others.

But while the EP showed a band galloping to battle, albeit very slowly, this album is much more forlorn in comparison. “The Hunt Eternal” shows subtle signs of hesitation in its opening chugs, but “The Golden Bough” follows it up with an excursion into all-out sorrow. It legitimately catches one off-guard with its powerfully swelling guitar work and absolutely heartbreaking vocal performance. I find myself wondering if its show-stopping nature would’ve made it better suited as a closer. Fortunately, “So They May Face the Rising Sun” and “The Crossing” keep that somber momentum going, even if the latter feels somewhat redundant.

It helps that the band dynamic perfectly fits the intended aesthetic. The vocals are especially stunning; it can be difficult to convey visceral emotions when opting for a controlled operatic baritone, but it’s done masterfully here as higher notes are reached in climactic fashion without getting too over the top. The guitars work off the vocals by filling out the high end with brighter textures and gain even more respect for creating a forlorn atmosphere without resorting to bottom-heavy oppression. The rhythm section is also quite competent, and the drums mix things up nicely with plenty of flourishes and tempo changes as needed.

Whether II is technically Death the Leveller’s first or second album, it is an astounding slice of Celtic doom. Its format presents an interesting mix of exhaustion and invitation as the individual songs are emotional undertakings even if the overall length allows for manageable digestion. The purposeful songwriting makes it all worthwhile, and the performances do a fantastic job of helping this escapist fare leave a major impact. II may not be a sprawling hour-long epic, but you’ll feel every minute of its agonizing glory.