(Grant Skelton returns to NCS with this review of the brilliant new album by Frowning.)
Today I have the pleasure of presenting one of my early favorites from 2017, a stream/review of the new album Extinct by Germany’s Frowning. You may know Val Atra Niteris, the “man behind the curtain” of Frowning, as a member of the DSBM band Heimleiden. Also in Val’s repertoire is the blackened doom project Ad Cinerem, whose vocalist Hekjal appears on Extinct.
Frowning’s origin dates back to 2011, in which the band released a series of singles. One of those songs, the evocative instrumental “Day In Black” would later resurface on Frowning’s first full-length album. Three years later, Frowning released said debut album, entitled Funeral Impressions, along with Of Graves, Of Worms, And Epitaphs, a split with Aphonic Threnody. Extinct is Frowning’s second full-length album.
With the exception of the exquisite cover of Chopin’s “Marché Funebré,” Extinct consists of four dismal dirges which gradually progress in length. “Nocturnal Void,” the first track, is just shy of 10 minutes, while the sullen epic “Buried Deep” is over twice that. But what distinguishes Extinct is musicianship and songcraft. Let me explain what I mean.
One-man funeral doom bands are a dime a dozen. Grab a guitar, churn out some riffs, grumble into a microphone ad nauseum for about ten minutes or so. Cue a drum machine. Bass optional. Maybe throw together some vague lyrics about dying to die a deathly death until you’re dead. Repeat. Not so with Frowning.
The songs on Extinct will remain with you. Not because they are accessible. Not because they are catchy. Not because they are technical. Val’s songs are exceptional because there is a definitive troubadour spirit to them. As though when he put pen to paper, rather than picking up an acoustic guitar, he elected to breathe black life into these songs through the medium that you hear on the album.
You see, there’s an “everyman” quality I find in Val’s music and lyrical narrative. Yes, the genre is doom metal. But the essence, nay the raison d’être, is not doom for doom’s sake. Doom is just how Val articulates the narrative. But doom is a certainty. According to some, the only certainty.
Within the same time period that I listened to this album, I read Thomas Ligotti’s The Conspiracy Against The Human Race: A Contrivance Of Horror. Ligotti posits that human consciousness is a cosmic aberration, an evolutionary hiccup if you will. Life causes suffering, therefore life is not good. Furthermore, it is wrong to bring into existence other beings who would endure suffering. Ligotti advocates for voluntary human extinction through our refusal to procreate.
I could not help but to ponder some of Ligotti’s conclusions, especially while listening to an album titled Extinct. Perhaps life is limited to horror. Perhaps the universe is passively indifferent, if not openly hostile, to our existence. Perhaps there is nothing to fill the “Nocturnal Void.” That void may indeed be all that there is.
The breeze—the breath of God—is still—
And the mist upon the hill,
Is a symbol and a token—
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!
From “Nocturnal Void”
Thanks to Zoheb at Qabar PR for sending me this promo. And thanks to Frowning for a diamond of an album.
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