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Novembers Doom
Dark Knowledge Of Doom

Chicago's a weird town to pin down musically. Skip all the other styles and stick with the heavier end of the spectrum, and you still get a plethora of different styles and bands that have actually made a name for themselves: Ministry in industrial, Macabre in thrash/death, Usurper in pretty much everything extreme, and now Novembers Doom in doom metal.

Actually, Novembers Doom isn't that new. The band has been together in one form or another since 1989, and released their first full-length in 1995. Yet after three releases, it's their latest 'The Knowing' that will bring them the most attention.

Vocalist Paul Kuhr gives U! the lowdown on the band's activities from inception to the present day.

"We started as a band in 1989 under a different name," says Kuhr. "We played the basic death/thrash metal, and clearly this was not the style we were comfortable in. We started to slow things down, and in 1991, we were playing a style of death metal that can best be compared to a band like Winter. We finally started to feel right at home playing this slow, but a huge element was missing from the band. It was heavy, it was slow, but it had no emotion. We were more or less a slowed-down version of Grave, only we lacked any real 'feeling.' Some people in this genre like the cold, dry style of doom, but we needed something new."

Novembers Doom

And something new they would find, according to Kuhr, as an inspirational CD here, another inspirational CD there, gave the band some ideas on how to shape their sound into something they could call their own.

"A friend passed me a promotional copy of Cathedral's first release, and the entire band knew what we needed to do from that moment on. As we started to include melody and harmony into our music, I searched for other bands in this style and picked up My Dying Bride's demo. I was amazed at the emotion in the songs, (and) needed to hear more. Bands like Paradise Lost and Anathema paved the way for bands like us, and we used the basic blueprint to create our music from."

And yet death metal, and later on black metal, would become the musical trends that extreme music was most known for in the mid-to-late '90s. What specifically about doom metal drew the band members to its calling?

"Doom was the only style that had the emotion I was looking for," states Kuhr matter-of-factly. "If the music doesn't move me in some way, I can't listen to it. It's an outlet for me to be able to write and say everything I ever wanted to say, and hope other people hearing what we as a band have to say with our music will understand its meaning. It's the only way I've found that lets me be as close to 'myself' as I can be."

As mentioned previously, coming from Chicago looks like a mixed blessing. Trouble made their start there, possessing many doom metal overtones before they psychedelified later on, yet, in reality, the extreme bands originating in the Windy City haven't made as much of an impact as bands from the New York or Bay Area scenes. Kuhr states that I'm wrong, and that if one looks close enough, quite a fair amount of bands from Chicago are starting to spread their wings, but he does agree that local support is hard to come by.

"We have some great bands here like Trouble, Macabre, Fleshgrind, Jungle Rot, Avernus, Disinter, Sarcophagus, Forest Of Impaled, Gorgasm, Broken Hope, and Cianide. These are just a few of the bigger bands here. There are great local shows all the time, but the problem is the fan support. The kids in Chicago are taken by the hype and like what the commercial radio tells them to like. It's sad to have so many great bands, and no one gives a damn until the bands hit big."

Well, Novembers Doom have a chance to hit it big with 'The Knowing', a concept album that dwells within the recesses of doom metal, but with a sound that is actually unique to the band. And while 'The Knowing' is one big story, tracks that stand out are "Harmony Divine", "Last God" and "Shadows Of Light". Kuhr tells the story behind those tracks.

Novembers Doom

"The entire CD is a concept piece, so all the songs fit within the story. "Harmony Divine" is the first happening after the gift of future sight is given. You run to save your loved ones from the death you witness before it happens. You remove them from harm's way only to see their death at a later time. It's an endless cycle of death, and it's the first step towards insanity. "Shadows of Light" touches on religion, and holding all the answers to it. With a power like this, you're torn on what to do with it. Do you tell people the truth and possibly crush 2,000 years of belief, or do you show yourself as the next Messiah? It's more or less about inner turmoil, and again, a step further into insanity. "Last God" takes place much later, after the mind is almost lost. You no longer save the love of your life and let her die in front of you. It's about self grief and the total mental destruction and the horrible sight that is now burned in your mind forever. The regret of letting it happen will break the human spirit."

Doom to the core, eh? Can't get much gloomier than that. Of course, some real-life sadness has entered the ranks of the band, rounded out by Eric Burnley (guitar), Larry Roberts (guitar), and Joe Nunez (drums). "What, no bass player?" you ask. Therein lies the sadness, as long-time four-string strummer Mary Bielch left the band after the recording of 'The Knowing'.

"She chose to move to another state to be closer to her family," states Kuhr, "and at his time we are looking for a suitable replacement. She had been with us almost three years and been on three out of four releases this band has done. She's very much a part of the band even still, and she will not be an easy member to replace."

Those who may have already heard 'The Knowing' may also ask about the female vocals, and how Novembers Doom will perform them live. However, it wasn't Bielch performing them in the first place, but a friend of Kuhr's.

Novembers Doom

"The female vocals were laid down by a friend of ours who stepped in for session work only. The one thing we never wanted to do was overuse the female vocals. We use them for more of an atmosphere rather than a lead. So many bands use the female voice for the sake of having a female voice. Ours serves a purpose. We use it to create a certain mood in the music, and instead of using a keyboard, we opt for a natural- sounding voice. It's never overused, and it's always added the missing flavour we needed."

Already in the works is a new album, which Kuhr says usually takes a year to write and solidify. Then there are tentative tours planned for Europe, and perhaps some North American gigs. The band has already played a few of the latter this year, including the Milwaukee Metalfest. Kuhr relates the experience, which unfortunately U! missed out on.

"I have to say, don't sweat missing our set, because when you play at 1:40 AM on Saturday and you are the LAST band to take the stage at Metalfest, not forgetting to mention we were up against Enslaved, 10 people would have been a miracle. But, to all of our surprise, we had close to 200 people scattered throughout the Relapse room upstairs. The response was great, and we knew the people that saw us that night were in that room to see us because they had some great choices at that time. We played the New Jersey Metalfest last March, and we had a huge turnout, so hopefully in the future, people will get more of a chance to see us. It just depends where our cards fall."


review of Novembers Doom 'The Knowing'





Interview: Alex Ristic [ ]


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