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UNDER THE SUN (Man Of Sorrow) CD

Believe me, I miss Penance. For me personally, they are on a par with bands as, for example, Saint Vitus or Pentagram and it was amazing to observe their musical development from the early days to the last album 'Spiritualnatural'. Penance made doom history in a small way and most of their albums became classics. One of the driving forces behind Penance (as well as Dream Death) was Mike Smail, a drummer that every doom metal fan should know: He was part of the lineup of Cathedral when they entered the studio to record their ground-breaking debut 'Forest Of Equilibrium'. It ought, of course, also to be mentioned that Mike Smail was in Pentagram and Internal Void. However, it seems as if he was not very busy during the last years with regard to musical activities. But finally the waiting has an end, and Mike Smail is back with a new band/project named UNDER THE SUN. That alone would be great, but it's getting better, because he invited his old friend Dennis Cornelius as well as former Penance guitarist Dave Roman. Still got questions? This is an amazing lineup and I am particularly pleased that Mr. Cornelius is on board. He is also one of the musicians who is capable of giving bands his personal stamp, as for example in the case of Revelation and Place Of Skulls. In addition, one should not forget that he's also actively working with his own band Memory Driven, and his creative input guarantees a special focus on progressive realms.

'Man Of Sorrow', released in 2010 by Smail's Custom Drum Shop, is a first result of this potent collaboration and what a result! Where should I begin or where should I stop? It should be clear that UNDER THE SUN do not deliver an album that is packed with doom metal stereotypes. Of course, it's heavy as fuck and traces of later Penance or Memory Driven are to be found, but very often UNDER THE SUN try out new things, which I had not expected in such a way. The arrangements are complex and full of technical refinements, but nevertheless overwhelmingly soulful. There's enough space for more musical influences, and sometimes the looseness of jazz shines through as well. It's nothing new that Mike Smail is a highly talented drummer, but his playing on this album is probably his greatest work so far. But still there's plenty of room for heavy riffs. Dave Roman demonstrates impressively, that he is a killer guitar player. His virtous playing is multifaceted, fresh and full of power, whether it is necessary to get out the acoustic guitar (which happens more often than you think) or to unleash some top-notch riffs. There is then, of course, Dennis Cornelius whose characteristic and unique voice is the icing on the cake.

I was extremely surprised to read on the cover that all seven songs have been written by Roman/Smail, because some of the tracks bears the hallmarks of Dennis Cornelius previous works. There are strong leanings towards progressive rock and I start to think of his past bands such as Oversoul or Dwell Within. His emotionally charged vocals are a fantastic addition to the positive vibe of 'Man Of Sorrow', since they make sure to increase the intensity of the songs. The album has been recorded at Chris Kozlowski's Polar Bear Lair Studio in Maryland, so that you can expect a warm and earthy sound. Not for nothing is his studio a famous address for heavy bands. It is, then, no surprise that groups like Internal Void, Pentagram, Earthride, Blue Cheer, Pale Divine (just to name a few) have visited him in the past. To sum up, 'Man Of Sorrow' is truly magnificent and the most remarkable debut in 2010 in terms of heavy doom-ridden music. It would be quite inappropriate to categorize this album as doom metal, because it has so much more to offer, including some brilliant surprises. In musical terms, each of these three musicians has moved on without ignoring their Sabbath-esque roots. I therefore assume that UNDER THE SUN will delight old and new fans. The digipack includes all lyrics that emphasize the spiritual nature of the music. All in all, a wonderful album! Highly recommandable!