”When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer… his unique opportunity lies in the way he bears his burden.” - Viktor Frankl (1905 - 1997)
If suffering is an integral element of great art and indeed life itself, one must wonder what kind of pain has been inflicted upon the minds behind Finland's Shape of Despair for them to paint such disconsolate sonic landscapes. Terms like ”glacial”, ”gargantuan” and ”monstrous” have been used to try and describe Shape of Despair's bleak hymns but alas, words fall short and simply cannot convey the crushing weight, vastness and melancholy of their sorrowful dirge.
Shape of Despair has been a forerunner of what is generally (and quite inanely) classified as ”funeral doom” for the last 15 odd years. After the demise of their death metal band in 1995, Jarno Salomaa and Tomi Ullgren decided to create something different, something darker, something to reflect the abject atmosphere of life in the council estates and the contrasting serenity found in the nature surrounding their area.
In 2000, Spikefarm Records, a burgeoning sidelabel for the well established Spinefarm Records, signed Shape of Despair and released their debut album, ”Shades of...” to rave reviews and general praise from the international doom community. The band was still to deliver it's proverbial coup de grace in the form of 2001's ”Angels of Distress”, an album that cemented their position as THE doom band of the new millennium. ”Illusion's Play”, released in 2004 and the self-titled compilation a year later were their last records for Spikefarm and marked the end of an era for Shape of Despair.
Reinvigorated by the addition of new vocalist Henri Koivula and a freshly inked deal with France's "Season of Mist", Shape of Despair are set to begin anew, delivering yet another monolith of morosity. Swiss philosopher and poet Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1821 - 1881) wrote: “You desire to know the art of living, my friend? It is contained in one phrase: make use of suffering.” And that is exactly what Shape of Despair are doing. Abandon all hope, for a new era of despondency is at hand.
SHAPE OF DESPAIR are now unveiling the first new song and title track of their forthcoming full-length 'Monotony Fields', which has been scheduled for release on June 15th. The band comments on this song: "For us, 'Monotony Fields' is the song, which reflects the album and its atmosphere the most", tells guitarist Jarno Salomaa, "a slow trip into the mind of desperation."
If the legendary swansong, a majestic bird’s final dying cry of despair, pain, sorrow and yet a celebration of beauty and life has ever found a musical equivalent, 'Monotony Fields' has to be counted among the closest contenders. SHAPE OF DESPAIR return to teach a magnificent lecture in melancholy with their fourth full-length. The Finns have taken their sweet time to create this masterpiece – worthy of their supinely paced genre, which can best be described as a carefully crafted balancing act between atmospheric and funeral doom. Nearly eleven years have passed since SHAPE OF DESPAIR released their acclaimed previous album 'Illusion's Play' (2004). This hiatus was only briefly interrupted by the 'Written in My Scars' EP in 2010 and a split 7” with BEFORE THE RAIN the following year, as strong reminders of the band's effusive talent. SHAPE OF DESPAIR was founded by Jarno Salomaa and Tomi Ullgren after the demise of their death metal band in 1995. The two guitarists were aiming for a darker and more serene sound. Debut album 'Shades of…' (2000) proved an instant success, garnering much praise from critics and fans alike. The quickly following 'Angels of Distress' (2001) is still regarded as a milestone of doom metal. Having added the corrosive and grinding vocals of Henri Koivula, which contrast perfectly with Natalie Koskinen's aerial female voice, SHAPE OF DESPAIR now return to reclaim the throne of funeral doom with an album that exceeds each and every high expectation their eagerly waiting fan-base has heaped upon them during their long years of absence. 'Monotony Fields' is bound to storm the end of the year lists and still manages to appeal beyond any boundaries inflicted by its genre. Lean back and let misery and suffering magically transform into pure pleasure and great joy!