Ahab is a German Doom Metal band named after the main character in Herman Melville’s book Moby-Dick. When someone thinks of a Moby-Dick inspired metal album, they would likely think Mastadon’s Leviathan (2004) – a terrific album in it’s own right, but I think Ahab deserves some recognition too. The Call of the Wretched Sea is their debut, but following albums also draw inspiration from Moby-Dick and it’s central character, Ahab. Their music has also been described as Funeral Doom Metal as their dirges are almost Drone Doom levels of slow.
The instrumentation on this album just invites you to turn up the volume as much as you can stand it. The thunderous guitars are heavy but never too up front to make the loud listening uncomfortable. They create a constant swell of noise that blend with the ambient sounds and the deep guttural singing. What pops out are the drums – specifically the snare and cymbals. I think it’s a nice change to have the drums be the centerpiece, and the drummer absolutely delivers on this album. He can play methodically slow as molasses but able to snap into a sprint at any moment.
Six out of the seven songs on the album are 10+ minutes in length, they are stretched out and they are each a journey. Although the band is German, half the song lyrics are passages from Moby-Dick, with the rest of the songs also being sung in English. Below the Sun has some perfect head banging action going on throughout, and interestingly The Pacific has an interlude mid-song. It ends fantastically, with these lyrics and with “spout thick blood” repeated over and over:
“Oh, ye great mysterious shepherd of waves
Offer me your secrets
So he shall spout thick blood”
I really recommend you read the lyrics to the album as you listen, they give a lot of context and gives more life into the dark and brutal writings of Herman Melville. The Sermon actually interludes with a sample from an adaptation of Moby-Dick, possibly a radio play. It ends with Captain Ahab shouting “it’s the white whale, I say!” then Ahab (the band) slamming back into the song with a heart pounding riff that gets me so amped-up. Another thing I love about this album is the choir chanting that fills the background on certain songs but notably The Sermon. Soon after they are introduced they take over the demonic growling to sing cleanly as the band marches on at it’s lumbering pace. It gives such an epic feeling to this song as well as the whole album.
The Hunt starts very cleanly, the cleanest the guitars have sounded this whole time. They are soon joined by the heavy and intense guitars that we expect, but thankfully they keep the clean guitars going throughout.. that is until the shout of “Whale ahead!!” and then we descend into hell just like the previous song. Ahab’s Oath complete’s the album spectacularly, with some more prominent synthesizers throughout the track. It is another song that quotes the book directly, and the last line sums it all up: “God hunt us all, if we do not hunt Moby Dick to his death”.
I had this album for a very long time and I didn’t listen to it, always thinking it was just aping off Mastadon’s Leviathan. But really they go for a completely different feel with this album, and are honestly more consistent than Mastadon. Although I might come back to “Blood and Thunder” and other heavy tracks on that album, I feel like I’ll be coming back to The Call of the Wretched Sea much more often. If you loved the album I reviewed earlier, Hyperion’s Dirge, then you will love this album like I do. If you’re a metal head and haven’t checked out either, you’ve got work to do.