The deepening of winter in the northern latitudes provides an auspicious setting for the release of one of the year’s most staggeringly powerful doom/death albums, Awareness Ephemera, by the Ukrainian band Crypt of Silence. It is being released today by the prominent Russian doom label Solitude Productions, and to commemorate the release we’re bringing you a full stream of its four immense songs.
This is Crypt of Silence’s second album, following 2014’s Beyond Shades, and it is far and away their most accomplished release to date. It draws inspiration from the early albums of such esteemed progenitors as Mourning Beloveth and My Dying Bride, creating a listening experience that is emotionally wrenching and stunningly heavy. Bodies are being broken upon the rack, and hearts have broken as well.
The band’s signal accomplishment in the album is their success in crafting songs of significant length, and with a persistently gloomy cast, without ever sinking into monotony or losing their grip on the listener’s attention. Of course, you must be willing to submerge your emotions in dark, freezing lakes of tears, and to have your skull cracked open like an egg by the enormity of the album’s sound. But if the titanic power and alabaster beauty of this kind of doom is what you relish, you’ll find the experience richly rewarding.
The album is produced and mixed in a way that provides clarity and separation, without sacrificing one iota of the music’s crushing impact — and it is indeed crushing. That’s an overworked word, but fully warranted in this case. The craggy riffs and immense bass chords and notes vibrate with bone-splintering distortion, and are so deep that they resemble a subterranean earthquake in slow motion. The drum beats have a similarly earth-cracking power, with a bunker-busting tone that you feel as much as you hear.
At the heart of these songs, of course, and what must make them rise or fall are the melodies — and they are deeply affecting, with an emotional resonance that’s achingly intense. At times they’re so grief-stricken that your thoughts can’t help but turn to the memories of people you’ve lost, bringing tears to the eyes. At other times, the melodies become soulful and even gorgeous, though still steeped in heartbreak.
The four songs on Awareness Ephemera each range in duration from 10 minutes to more than 16, and they never leave the haunted crypts of doom and death. So, how then do the four men in Crypt of Silence maintain such a fierce grip on the listener’s attention when, in other hands, sagas of such length and relentlessly somber atmosphere might instead put you into a coma? Among the answers to that question are these:
Perhaps the foremost explanation is the band’s grasp of the need for variations in intensity, and their skill in producing it. The pace of the music is never fast, ranging instead between the glacial cadence of funeral doom and more mid-paced rhythms, but even those relatively confined changes of pace make a difference — especially when accompanied by surges in the music’s volume and changes in the melodic themes that make them more acute in the aura of suffering they generate.
Another vital ingredient in the band’s success in varying the music’s intensity is to be found in bassist Mikhael Graver’s vocals. He’s possessed of an immense, serrated, gravel-throated growl, and he’s capable of raising it into obliterating howls of terrible pain and devastating anguish at times that push the intensity of the music to the breaking point. Yet at other times, his voice becomes simply a gasping whisper. (And by the way, there is no clean singing on this album.)
The band also maintain their grip by picking moments to segue into compulsive repeating patterns that will get your head moving. Prime examples come during a section of titanic chugging in “Insignificant Sense” (which provides the foundation for a searing lead guitar melody) and the almost bouncing repeating drum rhythm in the middle of “Life Passed By”, which sets the stage for an extended solo that’s soulful… and almost warm.
The songs are also made even more vibrant and memorable by the many dual-guitar harmonies that are salted throughout the album, often executed with a clean, reverberating tone that contrasts with the massive, bruising ugliness of the bass, the pulverizing force of the drumming, and the moaning, groaning, soul-destroying timbre of the riffs.
As cloaked in gloom and saturated in sorrow as the album is, it’s also hard to leave alone. It’s staggering but hypnotic, blasted yet beautiful, and abundantly feeds the need that some of us have, at least from time to time, to sink deep into the crushing depths of sorrow.
Awareness Ephemera is available digitally via the Bandcamp link below, and can be acquired on CD from the Solitude web store HERE.
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