Stately, ornate, very human, and quick to cut to the core, Reflections, the 2020 debut from the Halifax, England-based Godthrymm, was the epitome of traditional, earthy doom. Helmed by Hamish Glencross of My Dying Bride, Solstice, and Vallenfyre fame, Godthrymm’s first album became more enveloping and emotionally ripe with each repeated listen.
Outside of fans of Glencross’ previous musical endeavors, those who weep to the solemn liturgy of Warning or bask in the green glow of Type O Negative’s terminal dirge, World Coming Down, found plenty to trigger an existential crisis on Reflections. Godthrymm’s second studio album for Profound Lore, Distortions, shares the same marrow as its predecessor, yet it also sees Godthrymm widen their creative scope to greater effect.
Crafted during the pandemic, Distortions (part two of a trilogy, with the final installment, Projections, already in gestation) is considerably more multi-layered and tonally rich than Godthrymm’s debut. The official welcoming into the fold of Glencross’ wife, Catherine (vocals/keyboards), has had much to do with the increased dynamics. The feminine energy she imparts through her performance and chemistry with the rest of the band—rounded out by bassist Bob Crolla and drummer Shaun Taylor-Steels—adds profundity to an already-established titanic doom sound.
Featuring Catherine Glencross was previously tested (explicitly so on The Vastness Silent EP from December 2020). But with Distortions, the musical relationship between the four players is fully explored at opportune times, especially to a significant effect on the grungy bounce of “Obsess and Regress” and the reverie-like sway of closer “Pictures Remain”. Both tracks push Catherine Glencross’s sonorous, delicate vocals to the forefront of the composition, the latter blurring the lines between orthodox doom and the kind of shoegaze found in the realm of Cocteau Twins or Slowdive.
Existing as a macrocosm of Godthrymm’s current sound, however, is “As Titans”. It’s the first of two ever-evolving songs on the record that pass the ten-minute runtime and yet feel half the length. The classic doom riffs—harmonized in solemnity—and pounding drums bring the listener right back to Paradise Lost’s 1991 genre milestone, Gothic, while the knotted tails to the riffs bear more contemporary comparison to the prog-doom leaders in Pallbearer. Godthrymm take us through stomping verses (accented by some interesting cymbal work by Taylor-Steels), passages of low-slung Peaceville Three worship, and a funeral doom coda near the end, which contrasts nicely with a preceding section utilizing Catherine Glencross’s layered and lithe vocals.
Hamish Glencross has always been a master riff-smith, but on this LP, he has elevated his vocals in terms of emotional projection and lasting hook-craft to compete with his wife’s strengths. His timbre bears resemblance to Alice in Chain‘s Jerry Cantrell on “Devils”, a track powered by a massive central doom riff that gets heavier and colder as the use of keyboards gives the droning ending a Finnish funeral doom feel akin to Skepticism. A similar tone, vocally and musically, is carried into the next track, “Echoes”, which has a stalking, predatory gait and contrasts with the slightly more upbeat nature of the aforementioned “Obsess and Regress”.
“Unseen, Unheard” leaves the impression that Godthrymm could have fit nicely in the Roadrunner Records roster of the 1990s, right beside the Drab Four, and the galloping Maidenisms explored therein act as a welcome tempo jolt. While the slower, sprawling “Follow Me” is prime My Dying Bride in its regal arrangement and gothic flourishes, with Aaron Stainthorpe of that British doom institution providing spoken word oration—presumably recorded in a darkened room lit only by flickers of candlelight.
Ever since the church bell tolled ominously on Black Sabbath‘s 1970 debut, a tangible connection to the divine has existed in the cadence of doom. When certain bands have been conscious enough to place emotional gravitas upon the Sabbathian altar, doom has become gospel, rapture, and redemption. So, without soul, doom, more than most styles of music, is nothing. Judging by Distortions, this is the maxim by which Godthrymm created what will undoubtedly go down as the doom metal album of 2023.