Pull the shades. Strap on your headphones. Dip your quill into your inkwell, and sign your will with a final flourish. Drink poison. Put on your best silk pajamas. Lie in your bed, with its ornate bedposts and drooping canopy, and feel the hemlock course through your veins. When they find your lifeless corpse, they will understand. The new Colosseum album will be the soundtrack to your demise.
In funeral doom, that most depressive of metal genres, nothing is left to half measures. So it must be considered an achievement that Finland’s Colosseum have topped their grandiose debut album, Chapter 1: Delirium, in terms of unrestrained desolation. Chapter 2: Numquam (“numquam” translates to “never” in Latin) is essentially the same gallows-march soundtrack as its predecessor, only the moment of death feels even closer, the romance ever more severe. Chord changes still roll with the classical cadence and austere melody of Mozart’s famous Requiem, every new one a memorial bell toll, but now strings, trumpets, piano and flute herald the end. They make all the difference, wrapping Colosseum’s already over-the-top atmosphere in brocades of black velvet and gold leaf.
“Demons Swarm by My Side” and “Prosperity” inscribe their last words effectively with ashen guitar crush and mournful horn lines — this shit would be perfect end-credits music for your average adaptation of a Shakespearean tragedy. It almost doesn’t need vocalist Juhani Palomäki (also in Yearning) to communicate its woe, but there he is, bellowing “Senses still flicker/ Awaiting the hopeless awakening/ To a vague travesty of being/ Carrying human body in a long-dead soul” in a bone-chilling growl.
As immaculately engraved a tombstone as Numquam is, it also represents an artistic endpoint for Colosseum. Where to go when you can’t get any slower (drummer Sameli Köykkä deserves props just for staying awake), more majestic, more morose? The chug-free sections of “Narcosis” might be a way out, with dissonant synth chords and glittery acoustic guitars hinting at a doomed-out fusion of Pink Floyd and Opeth. Cinematic atmosphere chokes Numquam, so film work’s definitely an option too. Perhaps some more variable speeds, a la Esoteric’s excellent The Maniacal Vale (2008). Of course, this all hinges on the hope that Colosseum don’t kill themselves first.