Pale Divine isn’t the sort of band that goes back to basics, but their self-titled fifth full-length is easily the most condensed in their two-decade career. In addition to it being the Pennsylvania group’s shortest album to date at only forty-six minutes, it is also their first to not feature a single song over the ten-minute mark since 2004’s Eternity Revealed. Such a decision would suggest uneasiness on the band’s part, especially considering the six-year gap since 2012’s Painted Windows Black, but Pale Divine’s tried and true adherence to high quality doom makes this self-titled opus a glorious homecoming.
While Pale Divine’s songs have gotten shorter, their presentation remains rooted in the traditional doom metal style of albums past. “Spinning Wheel” fittingly sets the stage as soulful vocals are matter-of-factly delivered alongside steady four to the floor beats, watery leads, and riffs straight out of Victor Griffin’s playbook. The production is clean while still retaining an organic feel and songs like “Curse the Shadows” keep their grooves going no matter how often the tempos change.
Fortunately, the band knows how to keep such a grounded formula exciting. Slower songs like “So Low” and “Shades of Blue” have more in common with old school blues than straight doom, each offering catchy downtrodden swing rhythms and distraught vocals between wailing solos. On the flip side, the climax of “Spinning Wheel” throws in some harsh backing vocals. It’s a little odd since they’re not used on any other song, but they’re applied tastefully enough to not be a serious concern either way.
Overall, Pale Divine’s fifth full-length album is a rather safe album. The shorter length and familiar style make it seem workmanlike, but the strong writing and solid musicianship keep it from feeling phoned in or creatively limited. It’s straight doom that doesn’t give two shits about all the subgenres running around these days yet well-crafted enough to be relevant on its own terms. It’s great to have them back and one hopes that they keep the momentum going.
“Curse the Shadows”
“Shades of Blue”