This duo is a collaboration of Tamar Singer, who plays the acoustic guitar and performs vocals, and Vlad Shusterman, who does the programming and plays electric guitar. According to their Bandcamp bio they have been working and playing shows together for four years, and are based out of Tel Aviv, Israel.
The album is eleven tracks long and, although it’s not a novel idea, employs an interesting concept: using lyrics from dismal or even dystopic poems by various writers for each track. Musically you can hear an assortment of influences including doom metal, as the name demonstrates, as well as folk and even Yiddish music.
I won’t go through every track with you here, but I will point out a few that I felt were highlights. You can refer to their Bandcamp page for full credits and lyrics. The third, and title track on the album, “Gentle Doom” has some fairly heavy riffs which caught my attention and uses Shakespeare sonnets 145, 20 as lyrics which, albeit subject to interpretation, I found to be beautifully sad: ”I hate’ from hate away she threw, And saved my life, saying ‘not you.”
Another was track five, “When Helen Lived,” which is a poem by William Butler Yeats from 1916. At the intro and, periodically throughout, you can hear a sample of a voice recording whose words I was not able to discern, but sounded like it could be from 1916, perhaps a news reel from the middle of World War I. This might be my favourite track on the album; the way it is arranged and the flow of the lyrics all just come together nicely.
Yet another was track seven, “Walls Of Home,” which is a sonnet by Russian poet Nikolay Gumilyov. This gentleman was a Russian poet and military officer who was executed in 1921 on allegations of being a participant in the anti-communist “Tagantsev conspiracy.” The following year it was revealed this was a conspiracy fabricated by the Bolshevik regime to terrorize intellectuals who might be in opposition. I can only imagine how his military experience influenced his writing, and I feel Cruel Wonders does his work justice.
Overall I enjoyed listening to and exploring this album. The cover art is a sketch of the famous modern dance pioneer Ruth St. Denis by Allan Clark, and it complements the albums content well. You can “name your price” for a digital copy on Bandcamp, or you can order one of only 100 hard CD copies for 8€.
Written by Joey Beaudin
*edited by Kate Erickson