I’ve been trying to understand why I find the kind of music on the excellent new split by Aphonic Threnody and Ennui (entitled Immortal In Death) so appealing. I didn’t always. When I got into metal, the music that grabbed me raced like thoroughbreds with their bloodstreams flooded by adrenaline. Immortal In Death moves like draught horses pulling a granite crypt, with no finish line in sight. Yet the music is immensely powerful and emotionally intense despite its glacial pacing and its black moods. It overwhelms the senses, maybe even more thoroughly than the kind of high-octane romps that were my first loves.
Each band contributes one very long song to the split, and although they are more alike than they are dissimilar, I’ll still take them one at a time.
My own experience with this multinational funeral doom band (whose members come from other well-regarded underground groups) goes back to 2011, when I came across their debut album First Funeral (and wrote about some of the music here). Though the band favored long songs on that release (all of them in the 9-10 minute range), “Ruins” dwarfs them. It’s a nearly 21-minute monolith — and it represents Aphonic Threnody’s crowning achievement so far.
The dirge-like pacing of the song remains consistent throughout, and of course there are long passages of repetition in the musical motifs. Yet the music evolves, building in intensity from the spare beginning, and the evolution happens so seamlessly that you barely realize you’re being carried far out into deep water from the sturdy shoreline where you began.
As anyone who has dabbled in this genre should expect, the music is anchored by a weight that’s bigger than the ship itself — huge, pulverizing chords and drum strikes powerful enough to cause soft tissue damage. Much of the song is actually driven by the power of the bass — the riveting sound of which you can feel in your spine.
But what makes or breaks music like this — especially a song of this length — are the melodies and the contrasts. And the desolate, dismal refrains in this song are penetrating and resonant, made all the more memorable by the array of vocal overtones, both bestial and clean (and harshly whispering), and by the keyboard contributions, which add an element of ghostly incorporeality to music that is devastatingly physical at its core. You walk through the crumbling ruins Aphonic Threnody have created with a sense of wonder.
I discovered this two-man band from Tbilsi, Georgia, only last November, featuring them in this post. The song they contributed to this new split is “Hopeless”. At more than 24 minutes, it’s even longer than Aphonic Threnody’s song, but it’s just as arresting.
Ennui build a wholly enveloping aura of wretchedness and loss, yet they do so in a way that conveys an almost symphonic air of grandeur and dignity. I don’t mean to imply by the word “symphonic” that this song is keyboard-heavy — far from it. But the music has the senses-pervading power of a symphony orchestra and the desolate, heartbreaking emotional reach of a funeral mass.
It is not, however, unstintingly bleak. Huge, heaving waves of sorrow move through the song, even to the point of abrading all false hopes, yet it’s also frequently penetrated (like a spear in your side) by incandescent lead guitar melodies and solos. They are riveting when they emerge. I began to wait for them. They’re beautiful, though also melancholy. They really make this grief-stricken song a triumph.
The vocals aren’t as varied as those on Aphonic Threnody’s song — they’re almost uniformly in the form of gargantuan, cavernous roars (with the occasional anguished howl), yet they’re very well done. They magnify the sensation that the music is opening you to the dark places in your mind, or to other dimensions where leviathans extinguished your kind millennia ago.
You can’t jump into these waters for a quick electric jolt and then jump out and go about your business. This split requires a block of your time, and you won’t rejoin the world in the same condition as you left it. The mantle of sorrow will hang heavily about your shoulders.
So, to return to the question with which I began: Why do I like this so much, despite the fact that it’s not a natural complement to my normally ebullient personality? It’s because I admire bands who can seize your emotional core and change it, even when you’re not ready for the change. I admire bands who can create beauty, even in its darkest forms. I admire bands who can halt the frenzy of the mind in its usual state and open it to insights that would otherwise be crowded out by the cacophony of modern life. And these two bands are remarkably skilled at doing all of that.
Immortal In Death is available through the Bandcamp links below.