WHILE HEAVEN WEPT
"Vast Oceans Lachrymose"

(Cruz Del Sur)

01. The Furthest Shore
02. To Wander the Void
03. Living Sepulchre
04. Vessel
05. Vast Oceans Lachrymose
06. Epilogue

RATING: 8.5/10

The style of music played by WHILE HEAVEN WEPT has been referred to as "epic doom metal," a tag that is barely appropriate in describing the music of "Vast Oceans Lachrymose". However, my understanding is that the group's prior works (they've been around since 1989) did in fact possess a marked doom element. Aside from a few long sections of something only marginally approaching the majestic, often European, end of the doom genre, the album is more aptly described, at least in a general sense, as epic progressive metal, although the beauty of "Vast Oceans Lachrymose" lies in its brilliant blend of styles, which are infused with tranquil passages and superb melodies. It would have easily made at least an honorable mention on my year-end list had I heard it prior to the close of 2009.

Boasting a membership inclusive of past and present members of ALTURA SOLSTICE, TWISTED TOWER DIRE, REVELATION, OCTOBER 31, and BRAVE, it is apparent that WHILE HEAVEN WEPT has the musical horsepower to make an album like "Vast Oceans Lachrymose" not only a high performance engine, but also a compositionally effective one, thanks in large part to the mind of guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Tom Phillips. It is that rare album that challenges, yet never bores, and never falls into the trap of purposeless instrumental excursions.

In other words, the song remains the central focus, even when it is a 15-minute journey like opener "The Furthest Shore". In many ways it is the album's quintessence, beginning as a power-prog rocker and morphing into the type of scintillating melody that brings to mind the first-rate tunefulness of acts like CIRCUS MAXIMUS or SUSPYRE (pick your own melodically brilliant power/prog metal band if you must), rivaled only by the choruses of "To Wander the Void" and "Vessel". Ultimately, the song eases into a long, flowing section of classical/orchestral exquisiteness (created by the keyboards of Michelle Schrotz) that soothes the soul and warms the heart.

Beyond the individual tracks though is a cohesive, multi-part prog/power/trad metal symphony that variously hits hard with robust riffing, eases into sections of lush, keyboard-created atmospheres, and benefits from the vocal dexterity of Rain Irving, which is bolstered by serene harmony vocals. By the time you have reached the final two songs, the title track and "Epilogue", you will not even think about distinctions made between instrumental pieces (both cuts are instrumentals) or vocal melodies. The feeling instead is one of immersion in the album's seamless mix of sonic might and sparkling beauty. Impressive.

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