Album Review: Charm Designer – “Everlasting”

front_cover640Colombia-based gothic doom metal outfit Charm Designer have been around for quite some time, but their debut Everlasting is only now seeing light of day. As one who is unabashedly drawn to the morose, mopey end of the metal spectrum, I think that Everlasting has all the right ingredients to make for a great gothic metal album — arrangements balanced between melodic guitar leads and atmospheric keyboards, smart songwriting choices, and just the right touch of acoustic and progressive moments — but unfortunately, it also sounds about ten years behind the curve of current metal.

Don’t get me wrong: I rarely keep up with new metal and am pretty squarely stuck in the late 90s when it comes to most of my listening habits. You could even make the argument that gothic metal, aside from a few bands who have integrated gothic atmospheres into extreme metal (or vice versa), is a pretty static genre. It has a tried-and-true template that most bands follow, and the genre isn’t built so much on innovation as it is a contest of seeing who can become the new blueprint for the genre while not really changing anything. If Charm Designer’s aim was to make a solid gothic metal album built on rock formulas, toeing the line between allegiance to doom metal and accessibility, they nailed it; but in a time when the metal genre has undergone radical changes in the past decade, Everlasting does little to stick out.

There is nothing bad on the band’s debut; the songs themselves are entirely competent on the compositional and performance levels. “Disruption” is particularly good, driven by a strong mid-tempo march that unites the bass and guitars into a hammering rhythm while the keys provide the main melody, reminiscent of My Dying Bride’s Like Gods of the Sun. “Inertial Drain” utilizes electronic samples and programmed drums as well as a sparse, keyboard-driven verse to give a hint of industrial feeling to the entire affair. The album’s true closer, “By the Unmasked,” is the album’s most memorable and dynamic cut, as Andrés Herrera’s vocals switch between a deep baritone and gritty, mid-range growls, complementing the rhythm section’s diving in and out of melodic verses into more doom-influenced territory before a triumphantly fitting solo marks the song’s halfway point. The production is suitably polished here, and the mixing is excellent; famed producer Waldemar Sorychta (Tiamat, Samael, Lacuna Coil) was brought on board to see that Everlasting reached the peak of its potential, and the mark of a seasoned producer is evident as the album runs its course.

The primary weakness of Everlasting is that it sounds outdated. In the late 90s/early 00s, this would have been a great record, a notable entry in the rather pedestrian field of goth/doom metal. But it’s not 1999, and Everlasting, while perfectly fine, isn’t much to write home about. Additionally, it doesn’t have much bite to it: The band’s reliance on rock-based structures and tendency to gravitate toward mid-paced tempo become its Achilles’ heel, especially on longer cuts, although “Endowar” and “Mentors” break out from this rut as the most aggressive tracks. Songs blur together, and while there are only nine tracks (eight if you discount the tired Depeche Mode cover), it feels much longer than it should. Everlasting will be a perfectly good album for those who are drawn toward standard practices for goth/doom metal, but on the whole, it’s merely okay.

– Dustin

Everlasting is to be released on 2.19.2016 via Inverse Records. For more information on Charm Designer, visit the band on Facebook.

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