It’s surprising that the West Country hasn’t produced more doom metal, really. You’d think the genre would thrive in a landscape dotted with stone circles and ancient burial mounds, with easy access to magic mushrooms and mindbending cider, plus a local scene leader as hallowed as Electric Wizard.
The Wounded Kings (with familial connections to the House of Oborn) hail from Dartmoor, and desolate expanses of craggy moorland can’t help but form in the listener’s mind as the opening chords of Gnosis ring out. The Wizard influence still lingers like mist in a cemetery over these juddering riffs and wah-wah jams (particularly on fleeting one-riff interlude Elige Magistrum), but a distinct personality emerges on the quintet’s fourth album, Consolamentum.
The catalyst for this development is singer Sharie Neyland, whose mystical, haunted voice never loses its commanding power amid witchy retro posing. Although there’s no shortage of occult-chanting sirens fronting doom units these days, there is something singularly impressive about Sharie’s moody ululations, somehow managing to channel the spiralling celestial melodies of Solitude Aeturnus’s Robert Lowe as well as the otherworldly strains of Manilla Road’s Mark Shelton, especially on the title track’s gloriously overwrought chorus.
Gnosis develops into a textbook occult doom labyrinth, with passages of slothful drudgery breaking into swinging stoned grooves and subtle use of Hammer Horror Hammond heightening haunted-house atmospherics. Tumbling acoustic chords are equally effective at striking a mood of fearful rustic disturbance, though mellow campfire interlude Space Conqueror is a little throwaway. In fact, of the seven tracks here, three are brief, inconsequential fragments, leaving four fair-sized and fine doom epics.
As a long-player Consolamentum feels faintly incomplete and uneven, but there’s plenty to relish here for devotees of Vinum Sabbathi and The Wounded Kings’ future as a dependable British doom warhorse is secured by the chemistry that they’re audibly perfecting with their new frontwoman.