Doom bands have a struggle on their hands. Not with their fans, who love and crave the slumbering behemoths that pour out of speakers like cold molasses. No, the problem is with people like me, who may have only a passing interest in doom. The tempos and bleak outlook that categorize so much of the music is an impediment to growing the fan-base beyond the hardcore devotees. When the blueprint is executed as written, songcraft often gets placed well behind bludgeoning heaviness, turning what could have been a powerful musical statement into a thundering wall of noise.
Thankfully, that is not the case with The Foreshadowing, who use doom as an atmosphere, not a set of rules to be blindly obeyed. Instead of writing long, slow songs comprised mainly of repetitions of one main riff, “Second World” sees an approach that confines the riff to second-class status. Opener “Havoc” is the antithesis of what is expected from doom, which strummed chords and nary a true riff to be found, instead letting the song establish a mood and the vocals dominate the proceedings.
Not only does this approach set The Foreshadowing apart from the majority of doom acts, it's a stroke of genius that instantly raises their credibility as artists. Anyone can write one good riff and run it into the ground. Songwriting is far more than that, and The Foreshadowing are able to show they understand this point. Their songs are no less bleak than anyone else's, but they avoid the cliché of tuning down as low as possible and focusing only on being heavy. That approach has its merits, but when the music is only one droning sound, it lacks the layers of impact to grow with repeated listens.
The band's best weapon is singer Marco I. Benevento, who's husky voice is at once dark yet soothing, and who turns out melancholy melodies that elevate the songs into something more than mere doom metal tracks. He is what is missing from so many similar bands, bringing elements to the table that encourage listeners to return again and again. The chorus he delivers on “Ground Zero” is a stunning example of what is possible with doom. “Second World”, even on the first listen, gives the impression that there's more going on than can be gleaned from the surface. The emotional resonance of the songs has room to build and grow with time, a hallmark of quality.
Whether the droning chords of “Outcast”, or the mid-tempo chugging of “The Forsaken Son”, the music behind Benevento isn't concerned with standing out and proving anything. Guitarists Alessandro Pace and Andrea Chiodetti play for the song, letting others live out the role of guitar hero. Their work is simple, but aimed at establishing a tone for the record, one they manage to hit more often than not. Their chords hang in the air, dripping with emotion. The thousandth Black Sabbath rip-off can't achieve the same results, no matter how hard they try.
Songs are what matter, and The Foreshadowing deliver on that front. Every song brings the right elements to the table, marrying plaintive vocals to an appropriate musical backdrop. The only issue is that over the length of the album, the sound begins to wear out its welcome. There's no dip in quality, but there's also not much in the way of diversity, which leaves the album feeling a bit one-note. Perhaps a shorter album would have kept that feeling in check, but there's simply too much of the same thing here for it to climb to the top of the ladder.
That being said, “Second World” is a fabulous example of what doom metal should be, and is the best pure doom release I've heard in several years. If you have any interest in doom metal, you should hear “Second World”.