German titans Ahab and their deep love affair with the sea began with 2005 demo The Oath and continued into their debut The Call of the Wretched Sea in 2006. Self proclaimed as Nautik funeral doom due to this affection for the ocean, Ahab began a journey into the fathomless depths of emotion and despair. Basing their works on Moby Dick in the past, The Giant is a concept founded on Edgar Allen Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. The story told of the eponymous “hero” Pym and his adventures and life as a stowaway aboard a ship before being rescued by the crew of the Jane Guy after his time on board the Grampus was fraught with mutiny, terror and cannibalism. The Giant attempts to put this sequence of events to crushing funereal doom and weaves a tale of melancholy beauty and bittersweet heartbreak. Arthur Gordon Pym encountered many a new experience on his voyage and the labyrinthine account of Poe’s only complete novel is wrought with hardship, madness and tragedy.
Ahab’s style of funeral doom is not as intensely slow and abyssal as Skepticism or Mournful Congregation and the band have begun to focus on deliciously sad melodies and soaring vocal harmonies, yet the aesthetic is there in the sound and the longing and the desolate feeling of losing all hope. The Giant is astonishing in its scope and bottomless anguish and Ahab have created an album that is at times incredibly elegant and at others gut wrenchingly painful; often the two go hand in hand and Ahab play on their ability to destroy with one deft sweep of guitar or stunning vocal line from Daniel Droste - a man with a voice that pierces the very soul.
Beginning with the desperately gloomy “Further South,” The Giant lulls with a serene and gentle calm. Beautiful waves of quiet guitar echo over a sublimely minimal drum beat and the introductory nature of the track serves to set the tone for the remaining hour of the record. Droste’s tranquil and devastatingly pure clean vocal is ushered in over the shimmering instrumentation beneath and it is constantly verging on something more powerful. And then it hits. A forceful and aggressive growl bursts through the darkness and shatters any semblance of silent reflection. Chris Hector’s stunning guitar work breathes with a mournful edge and wheels over the ripples of Cornelius Althammer’s dramatic drum beats. The Giant is certainly a passage of discovery, each listen peeling back ever more layers of loneliness and fright of the unknown journey Pym found himself on. Ahab truly do justice to the work of Poe and capture the mood with majesty and forlorn hope.
The slow and processional “Deliverance (Shouting at the Dead)” gives way to a more commanding vocal performance from Droste and his cavernous voice cracks with the horror of what Pym is witnessing during his voyage on hellish seas. Again Hector’s sorrowful guitar splits the air with a luscious sadness and the thunder of Stephan Wandernath’s bass pins down the track with tight strength. Smoothly transitioning into the distressingly imposing “Antarctica the Polymorphess,” The Giant rumbles with a destructive energy and Ahab create a tangible image of a ship entering dangerous yet icily stunning territory. The colossal sound paints the waters with jeopardy and awe and Ahab slice the night with sombre tones of dread. Here Enslaved's Herbrand Larsen lends his ethereal vocal to what is easily one of the standout tracks of the record. The monumental atmosphere is cloaked in a passionate embrace of foreboding, no matter how precarious...the path must be advanced upon.
“Fathoms Deep Below” speaks of the destruction of the Jane Guy and Pym and his companion’s subsequent flight from malevolent island inhabitants. The deeply roared vocal consumes with a mighty and guttural dread and leads into final track “The Giant” and thus the concluding chapter of Pym’s story. The wretchedness of the sea and its power takes over and “The Giant” looms with a magnificent wonder before ending quite suddenly, as the story on which it is hinged upon does.
Ahab have a work of impressive beauty on their hands with The Giant and the step towards a more melodic tone has only heightened their skill and creativity. Although Ahab borrow heavily from literature they are able to take on the words of others and conceive a completely new dimension that adds to these timeless stories. The Giant is painfully gorgeous and heart-wrenchingly divine. Exquisite.
9.5 / 10
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