August 12, 2019

Veni Domine - Material Sanctuary (1994)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Doom Metal
Style: Epic Doom
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© 1994 Aliance Music/Thunderbird Records
Review by Andrew Rockwell Angelic
It could be said that Sweden’s love affair with metal has been primarily focused on the power and progressive side of things, with only a hint of doom thrown into the mix.  The reality, however, is that doom metal has deep roots in Sweden, even dating so far back as the glory days of the eighties.  Candlemass, for instance, came out of Stockholm in 1984 and has proved one of the better known acts in releasing eleven studio albums, five live albums and six compilations throughout its four-decade career.  Equally notable is Count Raven (also of Stockholm origin) from having put out five studio albums and one split album following its 1989 inception.  Also deserving credit is Faith (calling Karlshamn its home since the mid-eighties and with five studio albums to its credit) and Isole (a G√§vle based group that came together in 1990 and has released five studio albums and one EP).
Any discussion involving Swedish doom metal, of course, would not be complete without mention of Veni Domine.  Forming in Sollentuna during the late eighties, the group recorded a trio of demos under the Seventh Seal moniker before permanently changing its name to Veni Domine - meaning “Come Lord” as taken from the last part of Revelation 22 - and releasing its full-length debut Fall Babylon Fall in 1992.  Veni Domine in its earliest incarnation, also including its 1994 sophomore effort Material Sanctuary and Spiritual Wasteland from 1998, plays an orchestral and progressive form of doom metal that has invited comparison to Candlemass (slow and powerful but epic in form) and early Queensryche (front man Fredrik Sj√∂holm brings a high end vocal style not unlike Geoff Tate).
Similar to its Swedish doom contemporaries, Veni Domine has remained active throughout the years, as can be found in its seventh full-length album (and second on Massacre Records) from the summer of 2014 entitled Light.  The album finds Veni Domine staying true to its progressive and doom based roots while delivering a darker and Gothic tinged sound that hearkens back to its 2004 and 2005 releases III: The Album Of Labour and 23:59, respectively.  Yes, low-key and atmospheric in form, but the group is also not afraid to deliver a guitar driven moment that hearkens back to the heaviness of its most recent release Tongues from 2007.
Twelve-minute opener “In Memoriam” embodies everything that works with Light, highlighting a distinct progressiveness with its gentler to steadfast time signatures but also doom-like from emanating the swarthier elements inherit to the genre.  Chorus is over the top from its orchestral aura.  “Where The Story Ends” and “Farewell” take a similar musical stance, with former at times light and airy and others staunchly forthright and latter drifting between catchy riff action and somber as it gets refrain.  “Last Silence Before Eternity” gives rise to some of the albums more tumultuous and upbeat moments but can also descend into passages of a contrastingly foreboding nature.
A more Gothic facet can be found in “Hope”, a gloomy and downtrodden plodder ranging from the poignant (for its calmly reserved verses) to accessible (unmistakably catchy chorus), and “The Hour Of Darkness”, every bit disconsolate but delivering the heavier guitar slant and eerie as it gets backing vocals.  This one has doom written all over it.  Preserving the mournful leanings is the interspersing of acoustic lacings with bluesy guitars that is “Waiting” (a flowing melody will be found throughout) and immaculately done acoustic interpretation of the Fall Babylon Fall track “Oh Great City” (some Middle Eastern flavorings make their presence felt).
Long-term fans understand how each Veni Domine album has a unique aspect that would allow it to stand out from the rest.  With Light, it is an acoustic penchant, which reveals itself on not just the above referenced acoustic tracks but throughout much of the albums material as well.  I appreciate the acoustic emphasis in terms of reinforcing a laid-back feel (keeping in mind Veni Domine by no means forsakes its trademark guitar heavier accent) and enabling the melody of each song to come across that much better defined.  Which leads to the one consistent trait with Veni Domine in how it stays true to the song regardless of how intricate and complex- noting that outside the twelve minute “In Memoriam” the average Light pieces comes in at around eight minutes each.
Vocalist Fredrik Sj√∂holm helps lend to that accessibility with his ever trademark solemn but melodic style.  No, he might not as often go for a high note as in the bands earlier days – his delivery trends towards a lower to middle register range – but no longer needs to in that while the Veni Domine sound has changed over the years Sj√∂holm has revolved along with it.  Performance remains strong with guitarist Torbj√∂rn Weinesj√∂ shining with his fluid to flashy to bluesy soloing abilities perfectly in line with the progressive doom-ish sounds at hand.  If in doubt, Veni Domine still places priority on its instrumental sound, with the lengthy material lending to generous instrumental stretches in which the groups displays its able musicianship, albeit not to the point of unnecessary ‘wankery’.  Of equal note are the precise timekeeping skills of Thomas Weinesj√∂, which stand out that much further from the albums clean production.
Lyrics reflect the group’s faith.  “In Memoriam” touches upon perseverance in this regard (“Gone away but still there with me/Away, but I can’t let it go/Gone away, Lord, give me strength to carry on/Give me light when lost in shadows/God, help me, I am gone astray/Give me light; give me strength to carry on”).  “Hope” proves aptly entitled (“Let me feel the presence of Your purity/Let me see the comfort in Your eyes/Lift me up; embrace me with your Trinity/You’re the hope for those who cry/Who tries in vain, to fight the pain … and eternal strain”).   End times themes and the Book of Revelation remain Veni Dome staples.  This manifests itself on “The Hour Of Darkness” (“God let Your Son come again/Revelations come to life/God let Your judge be just/This is the hour of darkness”) and “Last Silence Before Eternity” (“Tears they will be wiped away/See them, saved from tribulation/Hear their exaltation/The voices from a thousand souls”).
Light is my favorite Veni Domine album since III: The Album of Labour, or at the very least since Tongues (but this might not be a fair comparison due to musical differences in that Light is more akin to the former as opposed to latter).  Regardless, Light brings the trademark Veni Domine attributes of sophisticated progressiveness (as can be found in the complex songwriting) and ominous doom-likeness (at times straying towards the Gothic) while playing up a unique focus on the acoustic (yielding a laid back milieu).  The overall quality - also represented in musicianship and production - allows Light to challenge for album of the year.  Let’s hope it is not another seven years before we hear from Veni Domine again!

tags: veni domine, material sanctuary, 1994, flac,


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