OK, so here’s a band that are new to me. Ahab – a German doom metal outfit. Formed in 2004 by Daniel Droste (vocals, guitars, keyboards) and Christian Hector (guitars) both of whom were formerly guitarists in folk metal group Midnattsol.
The pair added drummer Cornelius Althamme and bassist Stephan Adolph to the new band’s initial line-up are released debut album “The Call Of The Wretched Sea” in 2006. This album was a concept album based upon the novel “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville.
Adolph left the group in 2009 and was replaced by new bassist Stephan Wandernoth, who remains with the band to this day.
Two further studio albums followed. “The Divinity Of Oceans” (2009) took inspiration from Nathaniel Philbrick’s “In The Heart Of The Sea” novel and “The Wreck Of The Whaleship Essex” by author Owen Chase. Album number three, “The Giant” (2012), was again a concept album, this time using Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Narrative Of Arthur Gordon Pym Of Nantucket” as source material.
2015 sees the release of “The Boats Of The ‘Glen Carrig'”, the band’s fourth studio effort. This time the record is based on a novel from English writer William Hope Hodgson, also titled “The Boats Of The ‘Glen Carrig'”, which was first published in 1907.
Although I haven’t read the book, and if honest nautical adventures aren’t really my thing in terms of reading material, I have discovered that the book is apparently written as if penned in 1757 as a retelling of earlier events being retold by John Winterstraw, a passenger who was on the ship Glen Carrig when it was lost at sea. The narrator and other survivors escaped from the ship in two lifeboats and the novel tells of their subsequent adventures, beginning five days after the wreck.
So, that’s the book – what about the album? Things begin gently and almost ethereal at the start of opening track “The Isle”. Sparse and delicate guitar and plaintive clean singing for the first couple of minutes as the lifeboats make towards land before some colossal doom riffing breaks through the melancholia followed by the kind of vocal delivery you would expect to find from your average death metal crew.
“The Thing That Made Search” tells the tale of an attack from a monstrous creature on the island, and again begins gently before some monolithic funeral doom threatens to crush the life out of you as surely as the monster would have.
Having set back to sea the two lifeboats become separated and the story concentrates on the one in which Winterstraw, the book’s narrator, travels. A monumental storm is the subject of “Like Red Foam (The Great Storm)”, the most uptempo and, at six and a half minutes, briefest track on the record (the whole album only contains six tracks and lasts for sixty-seven minutes).
Incidentally, the promo video for this track at first glance bears no relation to the subject matter but, according to the band “…it’s very metaphoric… the idea came from one chapter in the book (The Great Storm) the thought of waterboarding growing in our minds… the overall theme of the video came from reading in between the lines the whole book… then again you can interpret any book in various ways…”, so make of that what you will but it seems to be an extremely loose interpretation to me.
“The Weedmen” are nastily smelling tentacled human-like creatures, “To Mourn Job” is concerned with the young seaman named Job who is killed and found drained of all his blood after they had landed on another island, and closing number “The Light In The Weed (Mary Madison)” is about the young lady of the song’s title who was aboard the Seabird, a ship trapped in weeds that the narrator and his party discover. The Seabird had been stuck for seven years, and the now-19 year old Mary and Winterstraw begin a relationship.
This last track is the most reflective song here, especially for the first six minutes or so but, as with the rest of this record, contains some very slow and very heavy passages. I suppose you could say that the more tranquil moments on this record are moments of respite for the weary travellers in the lifeboats before they come across the next horror either at sea or on one of the islands, and that the crushingly heavy doom metal passages are the audible representations of those horrors.
This is not an album that can be appreciated in the background – to fully appreciate it I think you need to immerse yourself fully. Whilst the riffs may not always be the most inventive I do feel that they work perfectly within the context of this album and the story that it tells. Favourite tracks are “The Weedmen” and “The Isle”. Not your stereotypical fuzzy guitar doom metal, this is more layered and perhaps progressive. Impressive stuff…
1. The Isle / 2. The Thing That Made Search / 3. Like Red Foam (The Great Storm) / 4. The Weedmen / 5. To Mourn Job / 6. The Light In The Weed (Mary Madison)