Napalm Records, 2015
9/10 – Jamie Cansdale
“All at once there came a low, muttered growl, stealing across the land; and immediately the crying was quenched in its sullen thunder.” And thus it is within the pages of William Hope Hodgson’s 1907 nautical tale of horror and survival that we find the perfect description for Ahab’s fourth album. The Boats of the Glen Carrig is as frightening a work of musical splendour as its source material, the archaic sea tale of the passengers and crew of the “Glen Carrig” who survive the fears and terrors of many a lost world. Featuring an array of monsters, of which none more horrific than the weed-men, the album cuts into the narrative and fixates on the horrors our seafarers face. The extent of its fascination with the weed-men and devil-fish can be seen on its gloriously colourful artwork adding to our fear of the deep.
To those who are not so familiar with the band, Ahab are unequivocally the greatest of storytellers within the murky depths of the (funeral) doom world. Taking on classics of nautical fiction such as Melville’s Moby Dick and Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket for their first and third albums respectively, the source material does not only influence the lyrics, for the music further personifies their themes, taking us deep into the heart of the stories. Unlike most funeral doom bands, Ahab’s musical progression over the years is very much evident, showing there are not afraid to push the boundaries of the strict subgenre and, in Boats, this is as plain as the great weed-continent that surrounds the survivors of the book.
What makes Boats so excellent is this progression the band have taken, for it is interwoven with as many clean and atmospheric passages as there are heavy and ominous dirges. This only intensifies the eeriness of the tale they tell here starting with the Land of Lonesomeness itself, The Isle. Beginning with such serene stillness we feel as if we are amongst the crew, slowly drifting deeper into frightful land, striking down on us with the colossal weight of the death-doom claws the band so powerfully wield. This continues until the atypical Red Foam (The Great Storm) commences with its sludgy tones and vocals courtesy of Daniel Droste, who shows his great range proudly right here, crying out from underneath the tempest that ravages the listener. What will become considered the band’s masterpiece, The Weedmen, follows; the terrifying rendition of the monsters’ surge upon the crew is told with sheer emotion both in voice and sound, from its eerie intro right through to its bone-chilling climax.
Ending with another uncharacteristic ode, the Pallbearer-esque The Light in the Weed (Mary Madison), the album comes to a shimmering close featuring their first exclusively clean piece. Marking their tenth anniversary, the band have done so in style with their most progressive album to date, one that will be hard to top. A terrific album with terrific artwork, this makes an excellent companion to read Hodgson’s book with, should you dare…