A Self Titled Masterpiece
A self-titled album this late in a band’s career is usually somewhat indicative of a meaningful change or new era. While Greece’s On Thorns I Lay has seen some highs and lows throughout their incredible 20+ year career, their new self-titled offering, and first on Seasons of Mist, is an exceptional return to form. Perhaps reignited by a new lineup, Christos Dragamestianos leads the band into a brave new world.
The most obvious change in their sound is the replacement of longtime vocalist Stefanos Kintzoglou, with the band now fronted by Peter “Invoker” Miliadis. The result is dramatic shift in vocal stylings, and a step away from the Paradise Lost/Nick Holmes-esque inspired vocal sound on previous releases. Whether or not this is an improvement is entirely subjective, and longtime fans may balk at the change, but it’s undeniable that Miliadis is more than a capable vocalist. While he doesn’t quite emote the same way as Kintzoglou, the despair and misery is left up to Dragamestianos’ guitar work, alongside fellow newcomer Nikolas Paraskevopoulos, who gel perfectly together to create the signature sense of despair that defines doom metal.
Contemporary Doom At The Forefront
Musically, this is one of the most accessible On Thorns I Lay albums. They do, to a certain extent, still sound reminiscent of the Peaceville three (My Dying Bride, Anathema, and Paradise Lost), especially as the album peaks on “Among the Wolves,” an exceptionally strong testament to the genre. Unlike the modern death-doom output of MDB or Paradise Lost, the band has opted for no clean vocals other than a few atmospheric backup vocals, and very tight arrangements despite the long lengths of the songs. This was a wise choice. If anything, the band sounds more adjacent to contemporary acts like Be’lakor (without the progressive elements) and the legendary October Tide, flirting with more melodic death metal elements that were absent from earlier releases. Those expecting a return to the original 90’s sound of the band should pivot their expectations and appreciate this record for what it is.
The growth of the band between 2020’s Threnos and 2023’s self-titled is absolutely massive. Threnos truly had some great moments, but at times felt directionless and meandering, a record with good songs with weak arrangements. This new lineup, however, seems to have refocused the band again. It might be controversial to say that this is the bands strongest release (granted it’s a bit different from their previous output), Dragamestianos’ left anything weak on the cutting room floor. The record is perfectly paced, solos and other interesting interludes are present throughout, and of course, you can feel the weight of the cavernous guitars on your shoulders.
Something For Old And New Fans
The album closes with “Thorns of Fire,” which perfectly encapsulates the sound of the group in 2023. The dissonant riffs are there, the shifts into melodeath territory land perfectly, the bridge features clean guitars and folk instruments, and the album ends on a moody piano outro. This is a band with something to prove, and their self-titled release delivers. This is a record for both old fans who want to hear Dragamestianos at his peak, and new fans who aren’t just here for the doom and gloom.
Overall Score: 9/10
Review By: Tom Mis