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Review: While Heaven Wept - Suspended at Aphelion
While Heaven Wept
Suspended at Aphelion

Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Year released: 2014
Duration: 39:12
Tracks: 11
Genre: Doom Metal

Rating: 4.5/5

Review online: September 20, 2014
Reviewed by: MetalMike
Readers Rating
Suspended at Aphelion

Rated 3.38/5 (67.5%) (16 Votes)

While Heaven Wept's Suspended at Aphelion has been one of the most highly anticipated album releases of 2014 and, finally, it is here. After listening to it more times than I can recall over the last several days, I have found it to be both everything I had hoped and nothing I expected.

Fear not, long time fans, this is still While Heaven Wept and the signature sounds of the band are intact. The majestic vocal lines, the mix of slower and faster tempos and the band's uncanny ability to play melodies that are both sad and happy at the same time are all well represented. And if you like when While Heaven Wept writes epic-length songs, this album should send you over the edge as it is basically one long song in 11 parts with only a few breaks of silence. The lyrics focus around a deep, and obviously very personal, sense of loss, perfect for Doom Metal even if the music doesn't always adhere to the blueprints laid down by Sabbath and Candlemass. But While Heaven Wept were never really about that, anyway. They've always made a new path and they continue to confidently walk their own trail, even as they are first to bend the grass.

Suspended at Aphelion is a Doom Metal album but that hardly sums up what it has in store for you. The instrumental opener "Introspectus" has an almost Celtic keyboard melody that gives way to the slow, powerful "Icarus and I," a classic WHW tune that features a grand chorus, built around a simple and catchy melody, augmented with harsh, blackened vocals. "Heartburst" would qualify as a "ballad," in that is it slow and soulful, and features a guitar solo from founder Tom Phillips that evokes the work of David Gilmour. Another instrumental, "Indifference Turned Paralysis," turns up the speed and complexity, bringing a progressive, Fates Warning flavor to the album. While Heaven Wept breaks out the riffs on later tracks like "The Memory of Bleeding" and "Souls in Permafrost," the latter featuring another grand chorus. On "Reminiscence of Strangers," Phillips and guest guitarist Victor Arduini (Freedom's Reign, founding member of Fates Warning) trade some excellent lead work that had me thinking of Eric Clapton and Brian May. When you listen to the album as a whole, the only way to truly appreciate Suspended at Aphelion, it is a dynamic and richly textured experience. Not that there aren't some faults. I found some of Rain Irving's vocal lines a bit ponderous with a slow delivery that had me constantly waiting for the next word. That may have been the point, but I found it frustrating. Also, between the slower songs, like "Heartburst" and "Reminiscence of Strangers," and the quiet intro and outro, the overall "metal" has been toned down a bit too much. While undoubtedly heavy, Suspended at Aphelion could have been heavier, in my humble opinion.

At the end of the day, While Heaven Wept have given us a complex, layered album with wonderful melodies and deeply meaningful lyrics. The sound is warm and natural, despite a hefty dose of keyboards. Guest drummer Mark Zonder gives a restrained yet purposeful performance and the rest of the band is, as expected, in top form. Each time I listen to Suspended at Aphelion, I can't help but think of albums like Pink Floyd's The Wall and The Who's Quadrophenia, not for the music, as it bears only a passing resemblance to those rock classics, but for the grandeur and sweep, and the fact that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Do not go into this album expecting the past. It is not VastER Oceans Lachrymose or Of Empires EVEN MORE Forlorn. Those albums captured a moment in history. While Heaven Wept are in the present. Suspended at Aphelion is While Heaven Wept through and through, but definitely different and anyone willing to dedicate the time to listening to it the way it was intended, as a whole, will reap the rewards.

Other related information on the site
Review: Fear of Infinity (reviewed by MetalMike)
Review: Fear of Infinity (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Lovesongs of the Forsaken (reviewed by MetalMike)
Review: Of Empires Forlorn (reviewed by Larry Griffin)
Review: Of Empires Forlorn (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Of Empires Forlorn (reviewed by Scott Murray)
Review: Triumph:Tragedy:Transcendence (reviewed by MetalMike)
Review: Vast Oceans Lachrymose (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Interview with guitarist and songwriter Tom Phillips on December 13, 2014 (Interviewed by MetalMike)
Interview with Tom Philips on July 3, 2003 (Interviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Interview with Tom Phillips on October 28, 2009 (Interviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Interview with Tom Phillips (guitar) on April 30, 2011 (Interviewed by MetalMike)
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