Released: 2017, Self-released
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
One-man black metal projects are a dime a dozen, and tend to be minimalist, militantly “necro” affairs – often for practical reasons relating to budget or musical/compositional aptitude, or lack thereof. But there's no rule that says they have to sound like shit, and Australia's Doomcave is proof of that and then some.
The “one man” here is Aiden Vestgaard, who also fronts melodic death metallers Septillion. As Doomcave, he has crafted an impressive debut album in Woebegone that shows he not only knows his way around the studio, but is a savvy musician and songwriter able to elicit much more than a mere shrill tangle of riffs and caterwauling.
The album sounds fantastic – its production is full and clear, but by no means slick. There enough grit to give it some bite, but enough clarity to allow all the instruments and vocals to be heard – and it actually sounds like there's instruments being played and not just programmed. And it leaves just enough room for the orchestration Vestgaard employs, mostly in modest quantities save for the expansive "Empire."
Woebegone's ambitious soundscape melds the progressive side of black metal – a la Enslaved – with its more anthemic, thrashier aspects – a la Keep of Kalessin or post-Rebel Extravaganza Satyricon. Indeed, despite its name, there is precious little "doom" in Doomcave – the thudding and thunderous finale "Spirit" excepting.
The music here is Norway by way of Western Australia, yet it is in no way a pale imitation. The requisite blast beats and tremolo guitars are there in abundance, but as if to counterbalance that and the orchestration, there is a generous amount of groove and heft that make Woebegone uncharacteristically heavy.
The riffs in "Messiah," "A New Order," "The Leech" and "Dreams" are really quite massive and the hooks hit hard – especially given the aforementioned bigness of the production. There's even some pretty searing guitar leads here and there, notably on "Falling Light," which belie traditional black metal convention.
The orchestral elements largely reside in the background here, as a wash of synths/strings that settle in behind the guitar/drum battery. And Vestgaard doesn't go it completely alone here, as he is joined by a gaggle of guests to provide choir vocals/chants on a number of tracks that lend a gothic/folky flair. "Empire" is really the only song that goes full on with the embellishments, but it has an effectively grand sound that doesn't feel overdone or ostentatious.
Woebegone's accomplished feel and sound would do any self-respecting band proud. The fact that it's the fruit of just one bloke is amazing – and the fact that said bloke hails from the shores of the Indian Ocean and not the fjords or forests of Norway makes it all the moreso.