I had never been a fan of German funeral doom band Ahab, but when I received a copy of their third album, “The Giant”, I wanted to give them a fair shake. So I decided I would listen to the first two albums to help me remember what I did not like about them in the past, and see if anything had changed to the point where I might like this new album.
I remember when I saw the first album, “The Call of the Wretched Sea” that I loved the cover and the whole Moby Dick theme. I honestly wanted to like the album, but ugh, I hated it. Funeral doom is a tough genre for me to get into because of the incredibly slow pace and the vocals tend to be pretty undistinguishable in terms of forming words. This first album featured both exceedingly slow songs and vocals that sounded more like the white whale rather than a person. Then there was the cardinal sin of a crappy overly atmospheric production that just ruined anything that might have been good about the album. I actively trashed that album when it would come up in conversation.
The second album, “The Divinity of Oceans”, was a little better than the first. They fixed the production quality to the point that it was now listenable, but they did not yet grab my attention because the vocals still sucked pretty hard.
Now they have released “The Giant” and I am starting to warm up to them a little more. The sound quality is now far better than it was on “Wretched Sea” and there are clean vocals alongside the deep incoherent growls. I can get behind deep incoherent growls as long as there are other vocal styles to contrast with, so I will give them a few points for this improvement. I find it amusing that the first album was overly “atmospheric” and sounded horrible, yet this album is much cleaner and actually exudes a great atmosphere. This just proves the point that bad production does not equal atmospheric artistic license…it is just bad production.
The songs are still dreadfully slow, but there is a time and place for such lethargic music, and the fact that I can make out all the instruments and vocals gives me reason to enjoy this album. There are a lot of clean guitar parts that are way more haunting than any of the heavier sections, and then when the heavy enters the mix it is much more dramatic.
After much more extensive listening to “The Giant”, I have come to the conclusion that Ahab has finally earned my respect and even devotion. Given the right set of listening conditions, this album can totally envelop the listener and instill a feeling of awe and reverence. This album is an adventure of the mind. It is not a casual listening album, but if one is willing to spend the time to become immersed in the album, the benefits become apparent.Check out the track “Antarctica The Polymorphess” and get lost in Ahab.