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Back in 2012, I was given the opportunity to check out the then latest full-length album from Ahab. The Giant was a fantastic release that lived up to the group’s self-proclaimed “nautik doom metal” style, and was one of the most engrossing releases I had come across all year. Well, it’s been a good three years since that effort, and their follow-up recording, The Boats of the Glen Carrig, had essentially slipped by my radars undetected. So, when it hit the inbox, I couldn’t help but grab it and slam it into the player. But, what I was met with filled me with a slew of mixed emotions.

The one thing I absolutely loved about The Giant was the dark nautic sound of the band’s music. There was no doubt that if any band had recorded their album in the watery depths, it wasn’t the semi-fictional entity of Dethklok, but Ahab. However, this one didn’t quite share the same burdening tone. Yes, that aquatic touch still existed, but often it felt more like something I’d rather have accompany me as one off a “you’re trapped on a deserted island and can have three CDs with you” lists for when I’m sitting on the beach and squeezing the sand betwixt my toes. For lack of a better explanation, it’s like Ahab decided to induct more modern Opeth to their material, and it just doesn’t have the same impact. In fact, “The Thing That Made Me Search” actually made me feel like throwing on their album Watershed instead of journeying any further.

It didn’t take long before my expectations of another suffocatingly bleak album that drowns me in mysterious doom-laden grim majesty was left to meerly bobbing along the shallow end of the local public swimming pool. But, after only a few tracks, I had decided to give it a go as further accompaniment on a somewhat long drive into town with my fiancee. It still didn’t quite feel right, and even she turned to me and asked “What in the hell are you listening to?” knowing very well I raved prior about my expectations of the truly grim experience their last album had. Neither of us really found much amusement from The Boats of the Glen Carring, and by the time the player hit “The Weedmen”, we had given up hope and moved on to something else.

But, speaking of “The Weedmen”, this is really the only song on this album I actually found to be more in line with Ahab‘s unique sound, and not like that of almost any other doom or funeral doom metal act out there. Of course, it took blanking out half way through a spin and coming to on this track already in progress. While that’s the most detrimental thing to say about a run through of an album, it allowed me to approach this particular track free of the impressions of the songs prior, and develop an appreciation for the bleaker traits the overall performance holds, not to mention the generally heavier performance compared to the lighter prog approach often running wild through this album.

I hadn’t revisted this album since the aforementioned experience sharing until tonight. Given the fact my laptop hard drive died, all I really have right now is what happens to be on my MP3 player, which is scarce pickings at best as far as recent promos go. So, I opted to give it another shot, this time looking at it more as a different kind of outing entirely, shaking off the sadness of a much lighter, almost zen-like release that put me at ease more than anything. Granted funal doom metal is often slow enough to possess a calming effect, but there’s usually an ominous sense of command to go along with that, something this venture is greatly lacking along, let alone more than one song, i.e. “The Weedmen”, that will get your head bobbing along obediently.

And, well, no, I still cannot get into this, even looking at it as far from their previous effort as I possibly can. Even trying to get past “The Isle” winds up being an immense chore, as it’s such an odd mixture of atmospheres that clash horribly together. The deeper tuning presents a murkier environment, while some of the leads outside of the main verses that introduce the guttural vocals make me feel as though I’m standing at the shore line staring at the sun as it beats down on me. Even when that burdening section kicks in, it all still feels a bit too light in the mix, going for an eccentric ploy with subtle nautical undertones that once again just seem out of place with one another. Really, the only thing in this track that works out is the slow paced guitar solo about six minutes in, and even then it still feels like more of a progressive rock performance a la Opeth. From here on it’s the same as the last few times: Sitting around waiting for the song to end, while not looking forward to the rest.

The deeper I dig into this release, I come to the conclusion that one could argue the nautic aspect of it is literally as though you are trapped on a deserted island. No, you’re not submerged in the depths that even light cannot penetrate, but that sense of isolation is still active in this release, mild as it may be. In fact, this is my eighth spin through the effort total, and this thought is now crossing my mind. It’s like a beautiful day laced with periods of tropical storms and bouts of dehydration induced moments of despair and/or madness. In fact, looking at it through that state of mind does allow some of the mixed tones and atmospheres to make a little more sense, but the thing is that this is more a last minute assumption on my part to try to make sense of the release and try to make it somewhat salvageable. I could be spot on with this theory, or it could just literally be the furthest thing from the truth.

But, even with that realization uttered, it still doesn’t change the fact that The Boats of the Glen Carrig has been a rather painfully dull and formulaic effort to sit through, not to mention incredibly formulaic. After eight full spins and I can’t remember how many incomplete times through, I honestly can’t really get behind anything on this effort other than “The Weedmen” regardless of how I look at it. I wanted so hard to be able to, but it just isn’t happening. The Boats of the Glen Carrig honestly just sounds like a mess of mixed up ideas that play off the nautical aspect quite poorly, leaving me sitting painfully on a large sheet of sandpaper in my briefs as I wait for the inevitable next step towards a brief crushing dismal passage that shows the band in a unique light, all to have it ripped away by light, almost progressive rock soaked riffs with conflicting atmosphere.

On a side not, I recently learned that Draconian has a new full-length due out this year titlted Sovran. I just hope this new effort from one of my long running favorite doom metal groups won’t be fall the same fate. The fear is already there due to The Boast of the Glen Carrig, so, I guess only time will tell.