AEONIAN SORROW – KATARA
RELEASE: November 1st, 2023
AUTHOR: Isabell Köster
03. Ashes And Death
04. Her Torment
06. Forbidden Cry
07. Ikuinen Suru
In keeping with the spooky season, Finnish-Greek doom quintet AEONIAN SORROW have just returned to the scene with their sophomore album “Katara”. The band, formed by Greek singer/songwriter and digital artist Gogo Melone (now based in Helsinki, Finland) in September 2015, describe their music as melodic doom metal/funeral doom. Like their genre counterparts Draconian (Sweden), Theatre Of Tragedy (Norway) or Mørke (Norway) they have made the “Beauty and the Beast” aesthetic of combining aggressive male vocals with clean female vocals one of their defining trademarks.
Thematically, since their foundation, AEONIAN SORROW have been concerned with existential issues such as the eternal suffering on earth and in human life. However, singer Gogo recently stated on social media that “Katara” is “one of the most personal albums” she has ever made. The reasons: “The album is dedicated to all those who lost their lives on the Katara pass of the Pindus mountains in northern Greece and to the memory of my beloved grandparents, Georgia and Michail, who lived in that area.” She adds: “Katara” means curse in the Greek language. According to legend, Katara got its name from a despot who around 1800 set out from Ioannina to go to Trikala, but the bad weather in the area made it so difficult for him that he died on the way, and he cursed the mountain. The heavy winter has always been an issue there, especially for travellers and drivers. Sometimes animals too. It was also a path for large vehicles and trucks, so from time to time the area has seen a lot of tragedy and deadly car accidents. I also used to take this path when I was visiting my grandparents and the rest of my family, but it’s no longer in use nowadays. All songs on the album are inspired by the topics I mentioned, the heavy winter, death, and loss. “Katara” was written for all the years I spent driving on those scary roads to go see my grandparents. Some of the songs were even written inside their empty house when they were gone. I put my pain in every song of this record.”
The beautiful and mystical cover artwork, depicting a young woman standing on a wintry mountain pass at night, was also created by Gogo: “It is highly inspired from Katara pass and the heavy mountains in the area. It also has a Finnish vibe and cathedral character too to fit with my graphic style”, she explains.
But enough about the background of “Katara”, let’s get to the music itself. The opener “Anemos” (the title translates as “wind” from the Greek word anémo) was the first track that AEONIAN SORROW released as a single already back in July. It starts off with a delicate, melancholy keyboard melody that pauses (and is taken up again towards the end) when Gogo launches into the intense first verse. Throughout the album, the petite Greek uses her powerful soprano voice in a very versatile way: Depending on the atmosphere, she sings in the higher or middle range. Especially the latter is of intense beauty and could make a stone cry. “Anemos” continues to unfold in a slow, mournful pace, punctuated by Gogo‘s clear tones and deep growls from singer Joel Notkonen. The song has a mystical, partly meditative quality that intensifies when Gogo performs two lines in her mother tongue, Greek, in addition to the English lyrics.
Up next is “Elumia” that starts with another heart wrenching keyboard melody before Joel‘s abysmal growls kick in. In this track, Gogo and Joel interact in typical “Beauty and the Beast” style: Both tell the story of the song, with Joel‘s deep, aggressive growls forming an exciting contrast to Gogo‘s mellow, angelic tones. Overall, it’s a driving song with catchy character that plays to all the band’s strengths: heartfelt female/male vocals, gloomy melodies, oppressive riffs and precise drumming.
“Ashes And Death” features former AEONIAN SORROW growler Alejandro Lotero (Exgenesis) and is one of the most beautiful tracks on “Katara”. It enchants you with its atmospheric flow, chugging riffs and an emotional chorus in which Gogo shines brightly, displaying her full vocal range and charisma.
“Her Torment” sees Joel performing a large part of the lyrics, while Gogo’s dulcet tones pop up here and there for contrast. In the final seconds, Gogo sings in Greek again, delivering a mournful wail that almost lends the song a Middle Eastern flair.
Another definite highlight is the title track “Katara”, which was released as the second single in September. It starts out strong with mystical vocal lines by Gogo and continues with heavy riffs that are building up tension before giving way to Joel’s powerful growls. The band play to their strengths again on this excellent track and have even added some Finnish lyrics to the mix, thus making use of their unique skill set and perspective as a Finnish-Greek band.
“Forbidden Cry” is one of the slowest tracks on the album (AEONIAN SORROW describe their music partly as funeral doom, after all) and sees Gogo effectively make use of her low register to create a gloomy atmosphere. I’m in total awe of her as a singer when she fervently sings: “God will remind you / That in this life we are forbidden / Frightened to decry my soul / For every enslaved cosmic war.” Most of the song is performed by Gogo, Joel chimes in towards the end, bringing the song full circle with his vigorous growls.The final track “Ikuinen Suru” (Finnish for “Eternal Sorrow”) is a beautifully doomy vocal duel between Gogo and Joel that brings the album to a suitably sombre close.
In Summary, AEONIAN SORROW’s sophomore album “Katara” is permeated by beautiful, sometimes painful melancholy. While the themes are deeply personal for singer Gogo, anyone who has ever lost a loved one can relate to the emotions that resonate in AEONIAN SORROW’s compositions. That left aside, the band have created the perfect album for cold, foggy autumn evenings when all you want to do is warm yourself by a crackling fire and keep the ghosts at bay. The band have phrased it perfectly on their website: “Prepare yourselves for an autumn melancholy. A mourning fall.”