CONFESSOR
"Unraveled"

(Season of Mist)

01. Cross the Bar
02. Until Tomorrow
03. Wigstand
04. Blueprint Soul
05. The Downside
06. Sour Times
07. Hibernation
08. Strata of Fear

RATING: 9/10

Wholly outside of any trend in metal, yet influential to many more famous musicians, CONFESSOR make good on their recent reformation with this weighty slab of downtrodden, progressive, cathartic doom bleakness. Serpentine rhythms, hair-raising vocals full of dissonant melody and soul-sobbing misery, and leaden guitar tones slamming down riffs that'd make Iommi quiver in his boots — there's just nothing out there quite like this!

Vocalist Scott Jeffreys has toned down his once-piercing high shriek for a mournful midrange not far removed from what SOLITUDE AETURNUS frontman Robert Lowe does (or perhaps Alan Tecchio in his NON-FICTION days). But Jeffreys has his own odd phrasing that roils over the unorthodox song structures, creating an uneasy listening experience with a welcome harshness that forces the listener to stay focused. Fans of the band's 1991 album "Condemned" might bemoan the less technical, more controlled attack of the modern-day band, but they retain a lot of their original sound (particularly in quizzical drummer Steve Shelton, whose stuttering fills call attention to time changes in a cool way).

Once in a while, a guitar line will recall early CATHEDRAL or TROUBLE, but CONFESSOR take these doom elements and weld them to strange, convoluted song structures. They up the ante on the traditional atmosphere of such sludgy, sorrowful bands with their unsettling rhythms, completing the aura of disquiet with Jeffreys's unexpected vocal choices. It's a harrowing, wrenching listen, dripping with pathos without being maudlin or sentimental. This is the pain of the world!

CONFESSOR opted for their own, uncharted path years ago, relegating themselves deliberately to a sub-underground cult status and maintaining an artistic clarity of vision that's rare these days. That their twisted muse has survived a decade-plus of inactivity with its gallows charm and freakish identity intact is pretty-much unheard of. This is a band for a maniacal few, and their devotees can be as obsessed about "Unraveled" as anything else they've recorded — if not more so. A brilliant, original, and astonishing album — I hope you left room on your Top Ten list.

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