THE ORDER OF ISRAFEL
by Eerie Eric
It’s been a good year for heavy music, particularly if you’re a lover of all things dark and doomy. Here in North Carolina summer has officially ended and the shades of autumn are beginning to take over. As the season of Samhain nears, the time is right for night skies, bonfires, and indulging in the dark musical offerings from the latter half of the summer. The choice selection for me? The Order of Israfel’s epic, “Wisdom,” which was released in late August. The band hails from Gothenburg, Sweden, a town known for producing superior dark music, (including, but not limited to doom giants, Graveyard.) The Order of Israfel also has the boast-worthy attribute of featuring guitarist, Tom Sutton. With this impressive debut, and in wrapping up a recent successful tour, Tom may have given us one of the strongest traditional doom releases of 2014, (and may be giving other new releases, such as superstar doomsters Electric Wizard’s “Time to Die,” a run for their money.)
Where “Wisdom” truly succeeds is in not relying on those tired trademarks that seem to be expected of most doom bands these days. Even though a majority of the tunes are lengthy, they are a far cry from the monotonous lurch fest that many doom records have become. The songs on "Wisdom" are epic, but dynamic. Heavy, but not sludgy. And produced, but not “slick.” The precision and planning behind the record is obvious, as is the passion. The album opens with the title track, “Wisdom,” a hushed beginning with a subtle pagan/folk vibe, but those soft harmonic guitars immediately burst into a mid-era Sabbath groove. Definitely a good pace-setter for the remainder of the album. The tempo changes midway through with eerie melodies before seguing into some palm muted heaviness and modal guitar runs, (not unlike other Swedish greats, Candlemass and Count Raven.) The following track, “The Black Wings a Demon,” is sure to delight the rockheads. It’s an uptempo rocker that takes things into Sir Lord Baltimore/Witchfinder General territory. For the incredibly rocking guitar solo, you’ll even hear some tough guy shouts, (bordering on the humorous,) like, “YEAH! C’MON! GET BACK! SHUT UP!” If rockers aren’t your thing, then fear not. The 15 minute plus, “Promises Made to the Earth,” will surely satisfy all of the stoners who prefer epics. But be sure to also indulge in the band’s “theme song,” simply titled, “The Order.” It’s a bold move to have a “WE ARE THE ORDER OF ISRAFEL” chant on the album, but again, it seems that the band knows when to place their tongues firmly in their cheeks whenever necessary.
In its entirety, “Wisdom” is a strong, cohesive album without any bad songs. My only grievance is the vocals are a little monotone and samey, but that’s certainly nothing unusual with bands of this ilk. If you’re a fan of the old school doom bands with the more traditional sound, like Candlemass and Cathedral, then by all means you should pursue this record. The Order of Israfel seems intent on steering clear of the all-too-easy trap of relying on sludge and volume over imagination and songcraft. So as autumn comes, and the nights grow longer and the air gets cooler, you should kick back, light up a fire under the stars and the bare trees, and treat yourself to the heavy riffing and dark journeys you’re sure to find in “Wisdom.”