Pale Divine

Crimson Tears

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Though technically a demo, this five-track debut by Pennsylvanian doomsters Pale Divine (later reissued on CD with two bonus cuts by Shadow Kingdom Records) plays like a fine-tuned, if rough-hewn, first statement by a confident and mature band ready to leave their mark. In fact, the coarse distortion buzzing around Greg Diener's wicked riffs actually fuels the song's power, and although the vocals sound quite spotty at times (see the otherwise solid "Lord of Sorrows"), the vibrant nature of what mostly amounted to first takes must be underscored here. The resulting collection leans toward the energized side of the doom spectrum (particularly "Rise Above" and "Serpent's Path," which verges on stoner rock), but the mournful beauty of "Rites of Passage" and the title track's psychedelic nuances quickly give away the dominant influence of vintage Pentagram, above and beyond Pale Divine's vision. That's not to discredit the trio's abilities to reconfigure captivating new songs from doom's well-established templates, though, and it's easy to see how Pale Divine went on to carve a critically acclaimed career atop this launch pad. Adding brownie points for fans, Shadow Kingdom's 2008 CD reissue tacks on a pair of live performances from 1999, including first album epic "Judas Wheel," taking listeners into the depths of the dingy clubs where America's legendary doom movement thrives and festers, right under the stuck-up noses of the musical mainstream.

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