Album Review: Pale Divine’s Consequence of Time (Cruz Del Sur, June 19th/26th)

Consequence Of Time marks 25 years since Pennsylvania doom metal stalwarts Pale Divine began their career. The fantastical album cover features a scythe-endowed wizard-type figure and the press release contains references to classic prog rock and metal. The promo photos feature the band with a woodland background in all their leather jacketed, long-haired and bandana-wearing glory. You may well be getting a flavour of what to expect already, as was I. And you wouldn’t be entirely incorrect. This is indeed no-apologies heavy doom-soaked metal complete with low-tuned power chords, Sabbath grooves and riffs aplenty.

Given the sheer amount of pre-existing music which fits broadly into the above category, the options for bands of this nature appear to be as follows: (1) deliver something that sounds tired and old, (2) break out and create something in a different style, (3) do something different within the style that pushes it forward, (4) make an incredibly good record which follows established patterns but stands out by virtue of its excellence.

Thankfully, for the most part, Pale Divine seem to have followed a path which combines options 3 and 4. The varied, assured and idiosyncratic vocal styles and delivery of Greg Diener and Dana Ortt give Consequence of Time (and Pale Divine) a feel which is entirely its own. The vocal harmonies and the conviction with which the bluesy hooks are delivered lends them depth beyond what one might expect.

The guitar solos (also shared by Diener and Ortt) do what you expect them to do, but do it in such a way that the solos themselves often become climactic features of the songs. Some of the textures are more blues orientated whilst others occupy more metallic territory recalling bands like Grand Magus. At all times this sounds like Pale Divine and not quite like anyone else. Ron “Fezzy” McGinnis’ bass guitar sits exactly where it needs to with rumblingly warm precision. Darin McCloskey’s drums are ferocious and punchy. The lyrics seem to focus on personal pain and suffering, translated through a lens of grandiose and fantastical metal vocabulary.

The production sounds intentionally raw in a 70s rock way. My only real criticism here is that there seems to have been a trick missed with the drum processing. The sound of the snare in particular is on the brittle side, and doesn’t quite reach the supersized sonorous heaviness that would perhaps have better underpinned the crushing guitars. This is not a major distraction from a fittingly unpolished and gritty sound. The addition of vocal effects adds just the right amount of space-rock psychedelic reverence to pleasingly subvert the noisy and guttural growl of the band.

Over the course of the record, through cuts such as blistering opener “Tyrants & Pawns,” the majestic “Satan in Starlight,” the blissfully cathartic and strangely uplifting “Broken Martyr,” I found myself enjoying Consequence of Time’s journey more and more. Riffs don’t come much more doom-laden and than those in the leaden scuzz-metal of “Phantasmagoria.” The title track — a funeral-blues sermon on the topics of death and decay — sounds like Iron Maiden crossed with Pentagram; Diener and Ortt really nail the twin-guitar sound here. “No Escape” delves into faster-paced Mötorhead-esque territory but maintains Pale Divine’s drop-tuned metal reverence as the effortlessly nimble yet soulful guitar solos sprinkle their magic. The whole album reaches an emotional climax on the final track, “Saints of Fire.” Here the soaring vocals and spacey effects conjure mystical imaginings over the top of some of the most authoritative riffs I’ve heard for a while.

Consequence of Time delivers more than it promises. It’s not going to set your world on fire if you’re not into 70s- and 80s-inspired doom metal. However, if you are a connoisseur of this type of music, you will find that this album turns corners that you wouldn’t expect, encompasses a wider-than-usual variety of styles whilst maintaining its coherence, and throughout the whole thing expresses Pale Divine’s collective idiosyncratic personality through glorious aggression and righteous rage.

The album was released digitally on June 19th and will be released on CD and vinyl June 26th 2020 via Cruz Del Sur Music. Order your digital copy here and pre-order physical copies at the links below:

CD: https://tinyurl.com/yd6t8hrs

LP: https://tinyurl.com/yb2mmoxf
(Gatefold, Poster, Insert & Download Card)

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