Tue 24th May 2016
The doomification of Holy Roar's recent signings and output is welcome - they have always had a keen sense of the slightly off centre, unhinged and inspired within our hardcore underground, and they've lost none of their skill moving into territories I'm more familiar with. With Slabdragger's Rise of the Dawncrusher I presumed they'd already released this year's finest UK doom record, but maybe that's jumping the gun, with Newport's Haast's Eagled providing stern competition for the title.
For II: For Mankind is a mighty beast. Four tracks of assured doom metal, ambitious in its reach yet achieving its goals with a flourish. There is an obvious comparison, a presumed worship at the altar of Yob to be acknowledged running throughout. The album is approaching an hour in length, each quarter of the listing given time to grow, change and pulsate.
It begins with Pyaaz Bhonghi, a slow tempo doom instant classic. Constantly grand and startlingly overwhelming, across the twelve minutes I'm taken back on multiple occasions simply by how good this is. The varied vocal styles break the heaviness of the riff into differing passages - a definite Sheidt style in the main, but with a deathly rumbling grunt glowering beneath, and moments of calm signposted by cleaner sounding vocals or gothic-laced almost spoken word. The piano assisted three minutes or so that lead to its close are gripping, absolutely stunning epic doom - the Yob analogy not only evident but worthy.
Zoltar is even more determined in its horizon spanning zeal, a twenty minute saga, an evolving narrative in doom landscaping. These lengthy tracks can sometimes be something of an ordeal to sit through, to maintain your concentration, but the mightiest succeed - Haast's Eagled possess the same quality. There's even a sax-lounge minute or two in here that amazingly sounds good and right - and if that's not a measure of a band's skill then I don't know what is. White Dwarf closes, another example of how Haast's Eagled forge a harmony of crashing waves of doom riff (reminding me more than once, albeit faintly, of The Wounded Kings) and seas of calm and contemplation.
Reading this back, written after only one run through, I realise this is a particularly gushing review, but after the second play I'm of the mind not to alter a word. II: For Mankind is some achievement, glorious, magnificent, worthy of all platitudes.