With the advent of the internet, it seems like the notion of bands having variations of a style based where they’re from doesn’t really mean as much as it used to. That said, there is something distinctly Italian about Gothic Stone’s approach to epic doom metal on Haereticus Empyrium. The Sicilians may have taken their name from a Candlemass song and reflect that influence in the operatic vocals and sprawling riffs, but the spooky organs suggest just as much inspiration from the likes of Paul Chain and Black Hole.
While the majority of songs move through ominous tempos complete with labyrinthine structures pulled straight from the Epicus Doomicus playbook, each track offers a distinct flavor. “Dies Irae” makes a quick impression as its creepy introduction leads to a sweeping set of chugs while “The Oath of the Gothic Stone” executes its eastern melodies with a certain urgency that is counteracted by the more subdued nature of “Luciferian Dawn.” “The Time Lord” is a fun little outlier with speedy instrumentation seems to be winking at “Into the Unfathomed Tower” as much as at Doctor Who.
Through it all, the musicians really know how to work with the atmosphere. The keyboards may be the most obvious mood indicator, but the guitars play the most dynamic role, putting in a slew of hard-hitting riffs and occasionally pulling back for softer textures. I can also appreciate the steady bass presence as well as the fluctuating drum work. The vocals may be the band’s most static feature, but that reflects more on their ability to fit in anywhere than anything generic about them.
Overall, Gothic Stone’s full-length debut, Haereticus Empyrium, does an excellent job of mixing familiar elements to create a distinct style. The more conventional doom components would be enough to make this an instant recommendation for genre diehards, but the Italian tinges take things to an even more exciting level. It’s an easy album to overlook with all the Crypt Sermons and Smoulders running about, but it’s a unique album worth checking out. Don’t let it pass you by.
“Caererir Mundus (The Necromancer)”
“The Oath of the Gothic Stone”