Columbarium- The Morbidious One (Album Review)

Nov. 9, 2023


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Columbarium may be a new name for many, but the Belgian doom band is comprised of members who have been a part of several other projects over the years.  Things officially came together in 2021, but some of the ideas that make up debut full-length The Morbidious One date back father than that and it’s clear when listening that Columbarium has had plenty of time to refine their ideas.  Finding a balance between traditional doom, death/doom, and even funeral doom with some sludge added in for good measure, this debut isn’t afraid to reflect a little bit of everything this particular type of metal has to offer while also throwing in some experimental flourishes.  There are some moments that drag a bit which do drag the enjoyment down slightly, but there’s still a lot that these guys do that make them far interesting than your average doom group.

What made Columbarium catch my attention is how they’re able to seamlessly move between the more riff-centric type of doom, atmospheric variations, and extreme counterparts, often in the span of a single song.  The title track is a great example of this, as it starts off with a methodical build-up and warm tone that still has a harsher edge to it, reminding me of that sweet spot between Candlemass and Winter at certain points.  But as the song continues, keyboards are added into the mix that give off a bit more of an Evoken feel, and then the tempo picks up and things explode into a high energy groove that has more of a bluesy/sludge approach.  There’s this same level of variety throughout the album, and what works to the band’s advantage is how seamless the transitions are.  Moving from a more glacial funeral doom pace where the atmosphere is the focal point to more traditional grooves and rock centric riffs isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but Columbarium pulls it off and it makes the songs have some neat twists and turns.  The Morbidious One also incorporates a decent amount of death/doom as well, though with the way the tracks change stylistically it’d be an oversimplification to label them purely under that category.  Admittedly while there are some very strong peaks and interesting transitions, I did find that “Eyes Bleed Black” dragged a little bit compared to the tracks that followed it, and “A Cure For Everything/Get Back Alive?” also feels like it stretches on for far too long considering it’s instrumental only and almost cracks the ten-minute mark.  It does dampen the impact slightly considering these two songs bookend the album, but the quality of the remaining ones more than make up for it.  I also appreciate the production values that give a rawer, abrasive edge while still giving enough space for the keyboards and guitar melodies to expand naturally.

Bassist Pete 'Jules' V also handles vocals throughout The Morbidious One, and he brings a noticeably extreme edge to Columbarium’s material.  He has one of those growls that towers over the recording and that only seems to get more distorted with each passing minute, coming in somewhere between death/doom and funeral doom initially.  But there are also passages where his approach gets a bit more distorted and reminds me a lot more of 90s sludge bands, as there’s a similar grittiness to the performance.  There’s a bit more variation to the vocal work than I was anticipating, and it’s great to hear that Columbarium can provide this same variety in all aspects of their music.  They also brought in two guests, with Esmee Tabasco (Tyrant’s Kall) providing some haunting spoken word and screaming on the opener, while Michelle Nocon (Death Penalty) contributes some otherworldly chanting on the interlude “Barefoot On The Moon”.

The opening and closing tracks may drag a bit and it does feel like there’s room for Columbarium to expand upon the wide range of styles they’re already working with, but The Morbidious One is a strong first showing.  It’s refreshing to hear doom that moves seamlessly between the extreme and traditional sides of the spectrum while still having some slight progressive edges.  If you’re a fan of death/doom or funeral doom check these guys out, and I’ll be interested to hear where they take these ideas in the future.  The Morbidious One is available from Argonauta Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg