It’s been five years since Welsh doom merchants The Drowning released any material. They mark their return with Senescent Signs, a nine track offering that has plenty for death/doom fans to gorge on.
All the genre hallmarks are present, with an abundance of heavy riffing, morose atmospheres and slow tempos. Vocals are primarily harsh, with a mix of low growls and rasps from Matt Small. The latter is where he seems most comfortable, with his more guttural efforts sometimes failing to adequately match the emotion of the music. Some clean vocals would also have added a bit more variety, as the use of operatic/female vocals on “House of the Tragic Poet” is very effective. The rhythm section is a reliable backbone, rarely venturing forward into the spotlight, although the intro of “Betrayed by God” shows bassist James Bunsworth is no slouch.
The guitar work of Jason Hodges and Mike Hitchen is the true highlight of the album. There are plenty of weighty doom riffs to be heard, with the pair unafraid to throw in nods to black or death metal when the mood suits. Melancholic melodies are seamlessly integrated into every song, heightening the anguish conveyed with gut wrenching beauty. There are also some exceptional guitar solos too, notably in “Never Rest”, “At One with the Dead” and “Dawn of Sorrow”, all of which serve the songs perfectly, never feeling like a superfluous showcase of skill.
There is a great flow to the album. The Drowning appear to have mastered the art of maintaining momentum, with the listener never likely to find their mind wandering by a sudden change in dynamics. The band never go further than mid paced territory, but they can slow to a crawl at a moment’s notice and still keep you captivated. It is all too easy to kill the flow of a song with tempo changes, especially in slower music, but the songs still feel energetic even when lumbering forward at a snail’s pace. The album rarely feels like a chore, even with a running time of over sixty minutes.
Senescent Signs is a welcome return for The Drowning. A solid effort with a number of well composed, multi-faceted songs and top notch lead work, it would slot nicely into any doom metal collection.
Highlights: “At One with the Dead”, “Dawn of Sorrow”