While Heaven Wept – Suspended At Aphelion
Reviewed by Nick Kane
When beginning to assess While Heaven Wept’s new work, I’d immediately say it’s much more melancholic and lot less doomy. I’m honestly not surprised by this direction though: just look at previous record Fear Of Infinity. So in short, we now have a very depressing power metal band, which I can dig. Like most depressing music, it is perfect for the cold weather.
Like the rest of the band’s catalog, Suspended At Aphelion is a relatively short album, clocking in at about 39 minutes with songs at an average of 4-5 minutes long. I’m surprised that the band didn’t release a 10 minute song this time around, though I would like to note that on the Spotify version of the album, “Icarus and I” and “Ardor” are combined together. I have found myself enjoying the album the past couple weeks and have spun it fairly constantly.
Though While Heaven Wept may have gotten rid of a lot of its old doom sounds, the sobriety and soul sadness is still there. It’s just in a more power metal-esque way. The music here is a good blend of solemn keys and heavy guitars without feeling like it’s ripping off Type O Negative at all. The album sounds like it was meant to be a continuation of Fear of Infinity, but in a more epic direction.
“Introspectus” is a nice three minute instrumental track that segues into “Icarus and I”, which features harsh black metal vocals. I can’t remember if Fear Of Infinity had many harsh vocals, but it seems to be more and more common in power metal nowadays, with While Heaven Wept following the trend. It works well for the song and serves its purpose, giving some nice texture without detracting from it. Things picks up on “Ardor” with more speed, as well as those trademark somber but catchy vocal melodies. I swear this is one of the only bands that makes depressing lyrics fun to sing (well ok, besides Candlemass). However, for as much love as I have for cool instrumentals and intros, this album has a bit too much sometimes. I get that someone wants to put in some ambience and maybe set the mood for the next track, but there’s just too much of it here sometimes. “Heartburst” has about 4 minutes of piano and vocals, and finally, during the last couple of minutes, kicks in with a sad lead guitar. My favorite is probably “Souls In Permafrost” with its faster tempo and more prominent guitar parts. Throughout the song and album, Rain constantly belts it out with his over-the-top dramatic vocals that I’ve admired consistently over the last few albums.
I stop short of calling them filler, but there are too many shorter songs that I feel could have been better developed into something more. Not counting instrumentals, there are 4 songs that are around 2 minutes long. The album is already considered short by today’s standards, and the several shorter songs make it feel even shorter and with less weight. It was underwhelming at times, and at several points in the album I lose track of where I am. Maybe I’m still biased by my love for Sorrow Of The Angels and Of Empires Forlorn, but I think that there could have been more substance in the songs. While Heaven Wept has always had a track record of longer song lengths, so I’m not sure why they decided to pile on more short songs and instrumentals.
Suspended At Aphelion is a solid album, but well overshadowed by the band’s earlier epic doom metal masterpieces. It’s hard to blame the group, as Of Empires Forlorn is a great work of modern day metal that exemplifies WHW’s “Candlemass meets Rhapsody” sound. It’s now a lot more like a slowed down Rhapsody with a 70s prog rock influence from the atmospheric keys. More keys, more opera, more sadness. Otherwise, it’s a refreshing sound in the doom/power metal world. I can only think of a handful of bands that even touch this style, and While Heaven Wept is certainly a good example of *puts on hipster glasses* “melancholic power metal”. I slightly jest at the term (was there supposed to be progressive in it too?), but it is a good description of the band’s current sound.
3.5 // 5