Album review: Ahab – The Coral Tombs

German ‘Nautik Funeral Doom’ masters Ahab go 20,000 leagues under the seas on stunning fifth album…

Album review: Ahab – The Coral Tombs
Nick Ruskell

Ahab have always been slaves to the briny deep. Named after the crazed captain from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, their albums have been voyages into the unknown, and the horrifying secrets it holds. Like a funeral doom version of Iron Maiden's Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, the Heidelberg funeral doom crew have earned their sea-legs setting the stories of Melville's legendary novel (2006’s The Call Of The Wretched Sea debut), the sinking of the Essex whaleship by a sperm whale that inspired it (2009’s The Divinity Of Oceans), Edgar Allen Poe’s The Narrative Of Arthur Gordon Pym Of Nantucket (2012’s The Giant) and William Hope Hodgson’s The Boats Of The Glen Carrig (on 2015’s album of the same name) to brilliantly heavy and expansive music that has the mystery and depth to take on such a task.

The Coral Tombs finds them descending far beneath the surface for the story of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Seas. Eight-minute opener Prof. Arronax’ Descent Into The Vast Oceans sets sail in fittingly vast fashion, opening on a discordant, unexpected blast of speed, before taking in waves of doom, and tempering things with calmer moments not a million nautical miles from Opeth. Daniel Droste’s vocals, in their deep growls, quieter clean moments, and impressive full-throated yells, perfectly match the terrible dread and eerie tranquillity of his subject’s journey. In its reflection of the story, it is quite brilliant.

They aren’t in any hurry to deliver all this. Little here weaves its magic in less than 10 minutes, and the pace often makes slow and steady look hasty. You don’t notice, though. Such is the ground (or, indeed, depth) covered as The Sea Is A Desert captures the isolation of the seabed, the way Ægri somnia uncoils into a monster, or during the final descent into darkness at the end of closer The Maelstrom, that anything less would be to show only part of the picture.

The idea behind Ahab is a very good one. But to be able to continually produce works that not only impress with their heaviness and relief, but narrate their subjects so ingeniously is a mark of a truly great band. Once again, you are strongly advised to join them on their journey, no matter what horrors await.

Verdict: 4/5

For fans of: Esoteric, My Dying Bride, Opeth

The Coral Tombs is out now via Napalm

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