Novembers Doom

Amid Its Hallowed Mirth

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When the members of Chicago's Novembers Doom released their debut album, Amid Its Hallowed Mirth, in 1995, heavy metal was about as popular as an infectious disease -- certainly in America, where it had been pushed deep, deep underground by vengeful critics weaned on ‘80s college rock and the grunge-obsessed consumers who were then hanging on their every word. Actually, even the group's favored death/doom style was seemingly past its early-‘90s prime by then, so to say that bandleader Paul Kuhr and his henchmen (and woman, that being co-vocalist Cathy Jo Hejna) were swimming against commercial and creative currents would be quite the understatement. But that only raises the bar of respect demanded by an album whose remarkably purist convictions see songs like "Aurora's Garden," "Bestow My Desire," and "Chorus of Jasmine" resisting any diversion from traditional death/doom hallmarks such as sluggish tempos, molten lava guitar sound, and the aforementioned Kuhr's uniquely bowl-shaking growls. Even the angelic contrasts provided by Hejna's soprano to the chilling "Amour of the Harp" and her personal showcase, "Dance of the Leaves," ultimately conformed with the style's gothic inclinations, and added a welcome dimension to Novembers Doom's aesthetic. If there's any overt criticism to be leveled at Amid Its Hallowed Mirth, it's that this pedantic approach allowed for virtually no innovation, but that would come later.... And, in light of the adverse environment into which it was released, the album still stands imposing and forlorn as a lone pillar amid that blasted heavy metal scene of the mid-'90s. [The album's 2008 reissue by The End Records tacked on six demos that never made it onto wax, including four from Novembers Doom's formative Scabs EP.]

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