04 February 2013
by Tom Dare
If you haven’t heard of The Prophecy before, this is the point you need to start paying serious attention. If you think Katatonia don’t make enough albums, or a ’70s prog album wasn’t what you wanted from Opeth, or you love older Anathema, you badly need to hear Salvation. They’re the band you’re crying out for.
Describing The Prophecy’s sound risks badly underselling them. Referring to them as “melodic death/doom with some prog tinges” is factually accurate, but doesn’t convey any of the warmth, the beauty or the aching sadness they convey. Similarly, “an exquisite study in misery” is true, and might look good on a sticker, but it doesn’t explain much, not least the musical skill – or, for that matter, the heaviness they back it up with – that has gone into Salvation.
Guitar strength forms the base for everything else to build upon. Guitars that shift from subtle, gentle, minor key wanderings and sustained chords into overt metal at the exact moment the sombre tone threatens to overwhelm you. They may not be the first thing you notice, but the tale-telling, utterly gorgeous, occasionally frightening guitar work is what everything else needs to flourish. Beneath this, effective but restrained drumming does precisely what is called for, and is an advert for the drummer as a genuine musician. When momentum is needed, the kit comes in strong and moves everything along. When light augmentation to the sound is needed, careful high-hat and cymbal work does just that, without ever overpowering the softness on top. When crushing metal is needed, it’s heavy, and when the best thing to do is shut the fuck up and leave space for reflection on the melodies, the sticks are downed.
The stunning songwriting that moves into exactly the right gear at the right time, accelerating when the misery may get too much but dropping back before it breaks the mood, and making 14-minute songs flash by in no time, is another. But the element that pushes this right up into the highest echelon, that transforms a very good record to one you simply must have in your life, are Matt Lawson’s vocals. The melodic strength in the vocal lines is towering. Memorable, beautiful refrains lace every single track. But it’s the delivery, and the manner in which Lawson tailors his singing to the song that turns you into an emotional wreck. The resigned hopelessness of ‘Salvation‘ becomes bitterness for ‘Reflections‘ and awful loss for ‘In Silence‘, and the resignation of ‘Redemption‘ offers no expectation of any to speak of. It’s a totally convincing, genuine-sounding venting of sadness that could make a stone weep.
If Watershed by Opeth is a reflection on how you arrived in the state of misery you now find yourself, and the consequences thereof, and if The Great Cold Distance by Katatonia is the distraught aftermath of the event that tipped you into despair, Salvation comes before in the chronology of melancholy. It’s the moment immediately after everything went horribly wrong, at the precise point your world seems to collapse in on itself, and the awful, unmanageable grief hits you in the gut so hard you feel unable to move, all crystallised into 50 minutes of wonderful music.
Sounds like: Katatonia, pre-Heritage Opeth, old Anathema.
Stand-out tracks: Salvation, Released, Reflections, In Silence, Redemption (all of them).