Nine long years have produced a couple of demos and now one debut full-length for Israel's prime doom act The Knell. Ironically, the songs in "Harm" are as slow as the band's progress, suitable to the doom/death they create in such a traditional manner. My Dying Bride
jump to mind at first, but subside right away, leaving the room for the seven massive mammoths that are the tracks in "Harm". It's easy to see why the two have been associated on the surface, but underneath the surface and into the 52 minutes of the gloomy, almost to the point of funeral doom, metal The Knell create, what differs this release is mostly the slight keyboard brush strokes, occasional leftover death metal oriented life-force and an overall atmosphere of genuine utter sadness.
Drones and a subtle piano start to set the unfathomable seriousness mood of "Harm"; The protagonist crawls in, soaked with grime from the murkiest of murky cesspools, and about half-way through opener "Black Veil (And Promise)" the pace picks up, utilizing the aforementioned death metal based riffing. The added disharmonic low-key keyboards make it impossible to not picture an abandoned church in the middle of nowhere, as his final resting place. The keyboard touches here and there are like eerie little thoughts trying to haunt you when it's dark – it may take over you.
Follower "Idem" is yet another step in the agonizing journey to life's end, and where the album's oldschool sound really works in benefit of The Knell. The album's dim and muffled sound (mastered by Esoteric
's Greg Chandler) is definitely intentional thus molding the grim atmosphere altogether. The result is a raw, massive, sluggish and has a grabbing feel to it all.
"Harm" is designed to raise those deep-deep feeling of loss. From the ominous artwork, through the created atmosphere and simple hard truth brought in each song's lyrics; "Angel Sobbing" actually feels like The Knell had in mind an angel, a pure divine creature, wallowing in its own tears the same way the elegantly morbid "Jerusalem Frost" passes a chill down your spine and the raw "Encounter Of Flames" raises a skinless, bare flesh, sensation. The abysmal realism gets to a peak on the title track, with its painfully-sawing-your-own-leg guitar distortion and awe-inspiring vocal arrangements "Harm" manages to give out a schizophrenic character via layers of simultaneous haunting hisses, whispers and bowel-deep growls.
, the lords of drone, come to mind often on "Harm", in terms of structure, audibleness and overall feel. If Swans were to revamp themselves as a metal act this is probably how they'd sound for at least one album. Being positively associated with Swans is quite a compliment but on the downside, The Knell does suffer a tad from their choice of sound; the drums are somehow left right at the back of the mix, and often sound plastic while some of the vocals are sometimes blurred and almost lost behind the thick wall of guitar and bass.
Closing track "Winter Shade" marks "Harm" as a complete winter album. Its closure lyrics make it unavoidable to shiver once it's done. Ultimately, this is a boutique doom album coming from a boutique label, like this form of doom metal ought to be…meant for highly involved, nihilistic, occult-investigating, sophisticated folk looking at where they stand in relation to the world, and on a larger scale where humanity stands in relation to the universe. If your answer to both cases was somewhere in the range between "a mere crumb" and "nothing", then "Harm" is the next album for you. Otherwise, approach The Knell with caution, for they will haunt you beyond your level of comprehension.