In late September I learned of the first advance track from the album we’re about to premiere from starkweather, and still smile over his description of the music, which jammed together three references in saying it has “the Cult of NeurIsis sound”, though with even more unhinged vocals. But the music isn’t the kind that makes one smile, no matter how much you respect the band’s relentless dedication to their vision and their powerful skill in making it such an apocalyptic reality.
The album is This Fall Shall Cease, and it’s the debut full-length by the Belgian doom/sludge band Lethvm. We’re presenting a full album stream in advance of its November 24 release by Deadlight and a consortium of other labels.
A disturbing buzzing sound and crystalline guitar notes build tension and an atmosphere of haunting eeriness in the brief introductory track (“Impetus”), which then spills over seamlessly into the heavy chords, dissonant notes, clobbering drum strikes, and bruising bass line of that song I first heard in September, “Wandering At Dawn”. Such seamless movements among tracks happen repeatedly through the album, as the band persistently ratchet the tension and then break it — but break it only with the sounds of isolation, abandonment, emotional collapse, and an agonizing grief so palpable you could cut it with a knife.
The music is also brutally crushing, in more ways than one. “Wandering At Dawn” unfolds at first with a slow, stalking rhythm and an introduction to those scalding, mind-mangling vocals, as well as the band’s talent for conjuring bleak, wrenching, ancst-ridden melodies. The song also provides the first example of the band’s use of clean vocals, both somber and soaring, to provide a haunting contrast to those scraped-raw howls and lacerating shrieks.
When the skull-fracturing drum rhythms of the song cease, mystical guitar notes echo against the anchoring current of a pulsating, gravel-throated bass and the deliberate crack of the snare — and then the intensity mounts again, with the start-stop peal of the guitar creating a feeling of an approaching apocalypse, which then seems to arrive in a relentlessly hammering riff that, when joined by the drums, becomes brutally crushing.
The flow of the album creates an immersive experience, the power and intensity ebbing and flowing but never relenting, never providing shelter from the gloom, only changing the forms in which the band have shaped their hopeless soundscapes. And so “Wandering At Dawn” moves right into the slow, desolate, dirge-like opening of “The Last Grave”. With the spectral, siren-like ring of the guitars providing a bridge, strident clean voices enter the frame, forming a prelude to a pitch-black slow-motion avalanche of skull-cracking drumwork and tension-ratcheting melody, those clean voices soaring toward a crescendo of grief.
Mindful of the attention-riveting effects of musical dynamism, Lethvm up the energy almost immediately with the piston-like snare rhythm that then launches “Winter’s Journey” — though the song soon subsides into a conjunction of slow pounding, long moaning chords, and skin-splitting vocal agony, falling even further into an abyss of gloom with the slow strumming and picking of a ringing, melancholy melody over a grim bass line and the ritualistic boom and tumble of the drums.
Such changes happen repeatedly as the music continues to evolve over the course of the album, moving among sepulchral riffs, unsettling leads that coil the winding springs of anxiety and despair or appear like ghostly emanations from beyond our veil of tears, and chords that ring out like clarion calls of pain. The music sounds like a march to the gallows, heaves and boils like a cauldron of anguish, rumbles like an earthquake, and provides panoramic spaces for beautiful though deeply melancholy guitar solos.
And of course the band also regularly do their best to just slowly and deliberately beat the hell out of the listener with staggering and oppressive force, as if to say, life is eventually going to do this to you, you might as well get it over with now.
In short, this is an emotionally devastating album, but so well-constructed and so gripping that you can’t get away from it, and won’t want to.
This Fall Shall Cease was recorded, mixed, and mastered at Noise Factory Studio, and the album includes cover art by David SC. It is being released in a variety of formats by a consortium of different labels:
Digipak CD released by Deadlight Entertainment
Cassette Tape by Denses Records
Vinyl LP by Dunk! Records
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