I first encountered shEver back in 2008 when they joined my band on several dates of one of our typically exhausting jaunts around Europe. Suitably impressed, I have followed their progress in the years that have followed with interest. Originally formed in 2004 by four Swiss witches, they have previously released two full length albums, ‘Ocean of Illusions’ (2007) and ‘Rituals’ (2012) as well as a couple of demos, EP’s and splits. After the release of ‘Rituals’, a possibly significant change in the band’s DNA occurred when bassist/violinist Nadine (now of excellent Doomsters Ashtar, whose debut we received very favourably here at Doom-Metal.com) left the band to be replaced by Chris. This change of course meant that shEver would no longer be perceived as an ‘all girl’ band, but much more relevantly to the music, it meant the loss of Violin in the band’s sound.
With that back story in place, let us get on with the review! The first thing I immediately noticed was a sonic improvement over the previous two records, especially the debut which was quite weak sounding. Whilst not what I would describe as polished, there is both a fullness and a clarity to ‘Panta Rhei’ that I found lacking – and indeed disappointing as this was never a problem for the band when performing live – in previous releases.
I find shEver a little hard to classify. Tonally, bass and guitar often have a lot of commonality with Stoner/Sludge Doom, and they certainly aren’t strangers to the hypnotic riff and beat, but there has always been more than a little from various ‘darker’ subgenres present too. I’d probably put them on the far end of the Dark Occultic/’Woah Dude Weeeeeed’ Stoner/Doom spectrum, with subject matter usually revolving around topics of death and the dark side. Vocals are somewhere between a death growl and a raw sludge roar, with occasional use of chanted clean vocals that are very effective at creating a ritualistic atmosphere. Closer ‘Path of Death’ takes yet another approach with some incredibly haunting clean vocal lines, that gradually increase in intensity in a way that is almost unnoticeable until you realise that a minute ago you were listening to a totally clean voice which is now delivering hellish screams. Such versatility in vocal range leaves me feeling a little jealous in fact, being only able to effectively deliver various forms of growls and grunts myself…
My only slight token criticism is that there is room for things to be played a little tighter. shEver are far from a sloppy band – and frankly with the amount of shows they play each year that would be frankly impossible – but there is a certain raggedness around the edges. That said, I rarely found it distracting and only really bring it up for the sake of balancing out an otherwise overwhelmingly positive review.
As for the lack of violin, I have to say I never really thought about it when listening to the album. I did however notice the quality of the bass playing on several occasions. Chris had (figuratively) big boots to fill when he joined the band, but has done so admirably. I found the use of bass effects to work really well, especially the interplay between the bass delays and the clean guitar on the intro of ‘La Fin’.
As alluded too earlier, shEver are an extremely hard working band, they are almost constantly found on the road in central Europe. In all honesty, I think both the quality of their music and their work ethic should see them get a lot more attention than they do, although they have toured with some good bands and played decent festival slots such as Roadburn. It may be the all too frequent problem of being from the wrong location to be ‘cool’ but I just think it’s a real shame that they have yet to take the step up from the deep underground to the, err, slightly less deep underground (can any Doom of this ilk ever be called mainstream?). Hopefully album #4 may be picked up by a label who can promote them adequately to make it happen. Until then, if you live in mainland Europe, they WILL be playing a show near you soon – don’t miss it.
I’ll sign off with a request: I’ve been listening to this band for 8 years now, and I still have no idea how to pronounce shEver, with its cryptic lower case s and upper case E (It took me several years to stop confusing them with Sheavy!). I have a good idea of how not to say it, as back on that initial tour, my attempts were met with much amusement by members of the band… if anyone can enlighten me, please do so!
Reviewer’s rating: 9/10
Reviewed on 2016-01-25 by Kris Clayton