This may be one of the most melancholic releases I’ve had for review for quite some time; probably since Cóndor’s debut, to be perfectly honest. That release, Nadia, was a mix of classic proto-doom and 90’s death-doom, moving with ease between Peaceville Three influenced passages to sections straight out of classic Sabbath and Deep Purple. Their follow-up, Duin, changes things up a bit. There’s still strong influences from early metal and rock, but the death-doom now firmly takes centre stage, resulting in an album that is both musically and emotionally heavy, with a few surprises. Furthermore, whilst Nadia was certainly very good, Duin is an absolute triumph, and a marvel to behold.
The classic rock influence makes itself known right from the beginning, with introductory track “Rio Frio 1” being full of intricate guitar melodies that are right from the school of Thin Lizzy via (old) Metallica. With its epic, yet haunting and sorrowful mood, it sets the tone of the album perfectly. What follows only adds to this, as “El Lamento De Penélope” begins, yet it only takes a few moments for the album to offer a big surprise: blast beats. They’re not exactly something commonplace in doom – even in death-doom – yet here, used sparingly, they’re incredibly effective. They add considerable extra power and emphasis to the more up-tempo, extreme sections, which in turn creates an even greater sense of dynamics when compared with the slower, more traditional doom sections.
Such sections are just as good and effective. Cóndor possess a great sense for what makes this style of metal work, playing excellent riffs and leads that are full of strength and sorrow. It is the kind of music that succeeds in being epic and dramatic without being grandiose or pretentious; instead, it creates that feeling from the sheer strength of its music and song-craft. The central riff to the first part of “Coeur-De-Lion” is simply heart-stopping in its power and majesty, with the band tapping in to that primal feeling that is at the heart of all metal; whilst the guitar leads towards the end of the song are wonderful in their sorrow and strength. The leads that dominate the second half of “Helle Gemundon In Mod-Sefan”, meanwhile, shame countless other doom bands with their soaring, captivating nature, before the band settle in to an excellent death-doom passage – one of many throughout the album. The closing title track is also a superb example of how the band combine death-doom and proto-doom, seamlessly moving between crushing doom riifs to classic leads and melodies, and is a real highlight.
The most noteworthy track, however, is album centrepiece “Condoräle”. At almost eleven minutes long, the song is content to take its time, crawling along at a funeral doom-esque pace for the most part, before picking up the pace slightly (ever so slightly) towards the end, as a touch more melody makes itself known. It is a mournful behemoth of a song, and with the weight of emotion it possesses, a fitting centre point for the album.
Unfortunately, whilst it is obvious that Cóndor have grown hugely as a band since the release of Nadia, and their song-writing and playing skills are much better (especially in terms of combining death-doom and proto-doom elements), one problem still remains from their debut: the production. As with Nadia, Duin is an album crying out for a strong bottom-end to its production. The issue is less pronounced than it was on that album, but it is hard to deny that, as impressive and hard-hitting as it is, Duin would be more effective with a better production. Even so, it’s not a major criticism. As it is, the album has a nice, early 90s Peaceville feel to the sound, both musically and in terms of atmosphere, which is something that will certainly appeal to many – as it rightfully should. Duin is an album that demonstrates just how beautiful and powerful doom can be. I’ve lost count of many times I’ve played, and it still feels fresh and new. This is a band that deserve a much bigger profile, and hopefully Duin can be the album that gives them that.