This is the third of three brief reviews I’ve written today for new or forthcoming short releases. In this one the subject is The Horrors of Old — the debut EP released on October 1 by Scáth Na Déithe, a two-man band from Ireland (Cathal Hughes and Stephen Todd).
The EP consists of two long tracks (in the 10-11 minute range) and two short ones (in the range of 1-2 minutes). It does what all debut demos and EPs ideally should do: It displays in a relatively short span of time the capabilities and ideas of the band in a way that’s impressive, consistent, and coherent. And in this case, the EP does that in a way that furnishes a wholly immersive listening experience.
The two long songs could be thought of as a spectral hybrid of black metal and funeral doom. Heavy, heaving, distorted riffs paired with earth-quaking drums trade places with tension-ratcheting swarms of vibrating tremolo melody and somersaulting beats that tumble like an avalanche.
“The Savage Hunger of the Dead” breaks the tension with a dreamlike melody, beautiful and melancholy, while the central melody in “An Sluagh” is plaintive, filled with a sense of grief and mourning.
As dismal, desolate, and hypnotic as the music is, it’s also harrowing, and an atmosphere of dread is never far away, thanks in part to the animated harshness of the vocals — frightening roars, agonized howls, truly wretched yells, all combine to provide images of wraiths dwelling in this dark world that the band have created, like a neighborhood of lost souls and night terrors.
The two short tracks, each of which precedes one of the long ones, are spooky, ambient instrumentals that do their own part to deepen the EP’s atmosphere of gloom and supernatural menace.
Structured with plenty of twists and turns into new regions of a phantasmic soundscape, this EP is never dull despite the length of the two longest songs. The time passes before you know it, you blink yourself out of a doomed reverie, and you wonder where you are.
The Horrors of Old is a “name your price” download at Bandcamp.