Although Norway and Sweden get credit for birthing black metal and melodic death metal, respectively, Finland’s got the lion’s share of influential bands in the esoteric funeral-doom genre. Founded by Yearning frontman Juhani Palomäki, Colosseum shares a morose disposition and penchant for lugubrious paces with Finnish countrymen Thergothon, Unholy and Skepticism, but there is a Gothic severity to the band’s debut, Chapter 1: Delirium, that sets it apart.
The members of Colosseum overpower the senses with colossal heaviness and tar-pit-slow paces, yet they rarely resort to dissonance or brutality for impact. Much of Chapter 1: Delirium is quite beautiful by conventional standards, with viscous guitars resolving in neo-classical cadences and an aurora borealis of keyboards shimmering in regal procession. “The Gate of Adar” and “Saturnine Vastness” share the same theatrical gloominess as Radiohead’s “Exit Music (For a Film),” and the soulful guitars on “Weathered” could almost fit on Pink Floyd’s The Wall. But Palomäki’s guttural bellow infects every ten-plus-minute track on the album, crumbling its churchly majesty into grotesque horror. Cymbals crash with the finality of death, and it’s all suspended in a thick casing of reverb, like a corpse preserved in formaldehyde.
Like most funeral-doom bands, Colosseum cares nothing for the testosterone-fueled rage of death metal or the misanthropy of black metal. Palomäki’s lyrics are utterly despairing and self-absorbed, and as a result Chapter 1: Delirium feels closed off even though its music is so expansive. That’s not to say that it’s a subtle album by any stretch — on the contrary, a sentiment like “I writhe in unending bliss of torment never ending/ So blind to my being that once existed beyond agony” is just as melodramatic as anything an emo band could cook up — just that the agony is directed inward. The pain has already been inflicted, and all that’s left is to wait for the end of it all.
The depressed might take comfort in the bleakness of Chapter 1: Delirium; it’s also pretty enough that metal veterans could use it as comedown music from a long night of headbanging. And in its narcissistic bombast, the album works like an epic piece of voyeurism by expressing a fatalistic outlook too extreme for most to understand. Colosseum offers many roads in to Chapter 1: Delirium, and whether we are sucked in or repelled by its dark beauty, the album is impossible to ignore.