America's most profound European-inspired doom metal act has returned with one of the most beautiful, refreshing listens of 2001. Owing much to the famous U.K. scene of the '90s, this act melds Cathedral, My Dying Bride, Anathema, and Paradise Lost together with a touch of Mental Home and a sprinkle of their own unique brand of cunning, lethargic doom. The vocals are both clean and gruff, but always painful, aching with the same, painful emotions one would have upon a spouse or loved one's death. In fact, both versions of "Silent Tomorrow" found on the album are perfect examples of what Novembers Doom invoke throughout the thrust of The Knowing. "Everything is beauty, and I have no love to share" and "each time I close my eyes I only wish for my end to come -- no angels sent for me," vocalist Paul Kuhr croons, as methodically heavy riffs crash painfully into quiet, oppressive melodies.
Opener "Awaken"'s glimmering guitars yearn for hope, before the gorgeous melancholic leads sink into the churning "Harmony Divine," which crescendos into walls of disharmonic guitars and feedback, before violently cutting out. Each track follows this brilliant formula, some playing around with slower and faster tempos, others simply walking the path between quiet solitude and chugging unforgiving. "In Faith" sounds fresh and original, yet it could have been easily culled from Paradise Lost's Shades of God or Icon, with its urgent, grim outlook and Gregor MacKintosh-inspired guitar mastery. Ten-minute epic "Last God" is filled with Turn Loose the Swans-era My Dying Bride goodness, almost like a sequel to that album's title track, but with more of a modern American doom twist. Heavy as all hell, the band mixes atmospheric keyboards, female vocals, and repetitive, opulent guitar riffery like masters, effortlessly showing just how talented this Chicago act have truly become. The Knowing sticks to a malleable formula, sounding fresh and consistent on every track, minus the funky mind-trip of "In Memories Past," which is wholly unique to Novembers Doom's sound. After the creepy record-skip that introduces the song (Gehenna's "Devil's Work" outro anyone?), Mary Bielich's funk-driven bass takes charge, calling forth mesmerizing, catchy guitar and vocal lines. Propelling along in a strange-'70s groove fashion that recalls a meeting of Cathedral's Garry Jennings, Saint Vitus, and Anathema (vocally), the song is held together by the relaxed, flawless rhythm section. A pleasant surprise indeed, as is the whole album with its bold arrangements, its technical virtuosity, and its command of the doom genre. Novembers Doom appear to have a rare gift for crystallizing the finest elements of doom oh-so-precisely, while simultaneously giving those European masters a serious run for their superiority.