Dead Words Speak is the sophomore album from Sweden's Doom:VS. For those not familiar with this musical entity, it is a solo project from Johan Ericson of Draconian. The music here is a solid and updated version of the type of Death/Doom that was seemingly more common in the early '90s, with bands such as My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, Anathema and so on. However, despite some similarities to the older bands, Doom:VS is able to stand on its own and is much more than a clone. The second album shows a bit of improvement and still maintains the high quality that one would expect. Released in 2008, this record follows in much the same style as the debut, though with some noticeable alterations.
From the first track, "Half Light", it is apparent that Johan has gotten a little more comfortable doing the clean vocals, as these make more of an appearance on this album as opposed to its predecessor. Normally, this would be a negative thing but he actually does it well and it adds a melancholic feeling to the music. His clean voice sounds quite hopeless and it not all that dissimilar to that of Mourning Beloveth. As for the harsh vocals, they are still deep but manage to convey some sort of feeling as well, rather than being too deep to contribute anything to the depressive vibe. The music is still slow and plodding, sometimes like Funeral Doom, but not without various dynamics. Occasionally, the guitars draw you into the depths, similar to the first Shape of Despair album, a swirling darkness that surrounds you and threatens to drown you in your own misery. From the frequent lead harmonies to the vocals themselves, this is never allowed to become dead and emotionless. One would not exactly call this very alive, as the overwhelming feeling that Doom:VS gives off is one of dying a slow death. The riffs are dark and oppressive, while maintaining your interest in almost a morbid way. Listening to this is almost like self-torture, as it tends to bring certain horrible feelings back toward the surface, or to connect with those that were already there. Yet it is difficult to turn this off once it has begun. The hellish feeling of Dead Words Speak goes beyond the lyrics of alienation, pain and self-loathing. The music, itself, paints a picture of a world consumed with an inescapable darkness that promises to devour your spirit.
The songwriting is a little darker than on the previous album, with a morose influence from early Katatonia seeming to have more of an effect this time around. Of course, this is heavier and better structured than anything that band ever recorded. The songwriting is very consistent, with a miserable and dreary atmosphere that remains throughout the entire album, draining the very life out of you. From the anguished sound of the title track to the funereal feeling possessed by "The Lachrymal Sleep", the songs seem to flow from one to the next in a most natural manner. It may even be that the feelings of hopelessness and sorrow increase as the album goes on. This is really where this band seems to excel, as a lot of bands within the realm of Doom Metal only go so far as to slow the music down, yet their material does not convey any sort of dark or miserable vibe at all. It is up for debate as to whether or not the primary purpose of the various types of Doom Metal is to be depressive or simply dark in a more general sense. I've always preferred the mournful approach, moreso than those that are heavy and slow with no real feeling at all.
If you are seeking Doom with an entirely gloomy and despondent atmosphere, then Dead Words Speak should suffice. From the melancholic vocals to the dreary and depressive guitar riffs, Doom:VS leads you down a path of sorrow and anguish, culminating in the spilling of blood and the opening of the coffin lid. This may not be the album for you if you are already diseased with severe depression, as the effect may only push you deeper into the hole. There is no hope to be found here. No silver lining and no sunrise in the morning. The dawn will never come. This terrible night shall last until you are cold and dead, in utter solitude.