Shape of Despair – Return to the Void

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With the cold season of winter sweeping through the Finnish woodlands, funeral doom metal masters Shape of Despair rise from the deep chasms of the Nordic realm. Returning after seven long years of isolation, the sextet of Henri Koivula (vocals), Jarno Salomaa (guitars and keyboards), Tomi Ullgrén (guitar), Natalie Koskinen (vocals), Samu Ruotsalainen (drums) and Sami Uusitalo (bass) come together in one spectacular aural journey. With its own unique composition of majestic doom dirges and the cold synth, the music on ‘Return to the Void’ perfectly conveys a deep sense of melancholy. The six prolonged tracks uncover older roots and inspirations that have been buried by time.

From its gloomy inception that comes close to perfection, the opening track “Return to the Void” takes us on a path to solitude. Tormenting the wretched souls with crushing funeral riffs, the ghastly guttural growls paint endless landscapes of sorrow. As the gloomy guitars swell, weaving a requiem for the dead blending sepulchral growls with the parody of the sorrowful rhythm, a sublime state leaves you mesmerized by the beautiful cascading vocals of Natalie Koskinen. While the music imparts a sense of deep sorrow, the crestfallen atmosphere of the female vocals and lead guitar provides an aesthetic experience. Suddenly the chilling ghostly moments bring a sense of doom on “Dissolution”, where the lead guitar provides an emotional flow providing beautiful but catchy melodies. Each song would offer heart-wrenching tunes and the somber dirges are played with such delicate passion. And where the synth cascades, the trudging drums build up to the momentum.

The deep guttural growls of Henri Koivula have deepened by time, with the soaring lead guitars of Jarno Salomma uplifting the black velvet shroud. Through the plodding pace of the drums, Shape of Despair lays a majestic conception of funeral doom metal. An aura of dark splendor wafts like a cold wintry air throughout the album and at each solemn pace, the guitars carry a colossal weight of grief. “Return to the Void” evokes the essence of funeral doom, drowning the listener in despair beyond melancholy. The sextet has captured the profound mood for a brooding atmosphere, with the slow pacing of the lurching drums and the haunting atmosphere combined on “Solitary Downfall”. The musical landscapes on this track are spacious and very articulate in creating a depressing effect.

Though the songs are devoid of any ambient sections, the synth and guitars serve a doomy backdrop to the lamenting female vocals. Mournful undertones are delicately layered underneath with the gushing guttural growls that creep out from the void. Reaching halfway through the album, Shape of Despair swathes the remaining songs with heavy toned-dirges and morose guttural growls that bind tracks like “Reflection In Slow Time” towards a darker and heavier sound. Layered guitar-soaked dirges are backed by powerful growls, the guitars effortlessly glide over the cascading female vocals. And the sorrowful quality creates a somber atmosphere that expands over the increasingly dark crescendo.

The guitars, the synth and the female vocals are omnipresent, adding bleak suspense. Despite the utter gloominess of the dense atmosphere, the guitar melodies shimmer like glistening rays of light. “Forfeit” begins with the trudging drums that become awash in celestial synth waves, then suddenly the female chanting and the deep growls join in a memorable duet. Dismal riffs and the crashing drum beats of Samu Ruotsalainen create misty sonic landscapes that are layered with melodic textures of the lead guitars. “Return to the Void” is a classic funeral doom album. Albeit sounding excruciatingly slow, the fifty-seven minutes sounds rather elegant and blissful to the ears hence offering a beautiful journey to the Nordic woods. 

The final track “The Inner Desolation” is reminiscent of Shape of Despair’s song “Sylvan-Night”, which offers a sorrowful closure of haunting gloom. The layering of the lamenting female vocals and the guttural growls cascade down to the recess of the abyss. The song masterfully maintains its atmospheric and majestic tone. There are some frigid passages where the guitars and the plodding drums become the key element in filling out a considerable portion in the slow mid-tempo. While the final moments of this mammoth track feature a groundbreaking lead section that harmonizes the dual vocals and melodic patterns together. 

Shape of Despair has transcended far and beyond, the fifth album is nothing short of amazing. “Return to the Void” returns to the old ways as it set a new paradigm of outstanding craftsmanship that will surpass many fans of funeral doom metal, this comes as highly recommended for fans of Evoken, Skepticism and, Unholy

Release Date: February 25th, 2022
Label: Season of Mist

  1. Return to the Void
  2. Dissolution
  3. Solitary Downfall
  4. Reflection in Slow Time
  5. Forfeit
  6. The Inner Desolation


  • Music10/10
  • Vocals/Lyrics10/10
  • Production10/10
  • Artwork10/10
  • Originality10/10
10“Return to the Void” evokes the essence of funeral doom drowning the listener in despair beyond melancholy the sextet has captured the profound mood for the brooding atmosphere.
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