Deitus proclaim that “it is through suffering that the fruits of salvation shall be found”, and they have named their new album Via Dolorosa — Latin for “the Way of Suffering” or “the Way of Sorrow”. The words may be best known (at least in certain communities) as the name of the road in the Old City of Jerusalem that Jesus walked in agony toward the place of his crucifixion, but it could equally be considered the path of human life in general. As envisioned in the music of Deitus, pain is inevitable, and yet it can lead to illumination.
The song we present today, which is the new album’s title track, is, in a word, stunning. True to this UK band’s statement of principle, it is a powerful expression of suffering, heart-ache, and transcendence.
As described by I, Voidhanger Records, which will release the album on December 14th, the music of Deitus is “rooted in the old-school black metal tradition of Dissection, Satyricon and Mayhem, but prone to heavy metal contaminations that make the music very varied, vital and essential.” As you’re about to discover, those words are not mere puffery.
It is also true, as the label says, that “guitars are constantly under the spotlights here”. “Via Dolorosa” (the song) has much to recommend it, but the guitar leads and the soloing stand out in a way that’s extravagant, and often glorious, but not “showy”. And the way in which the song builds toward shining crescendos made this listener think more than once of that Zeppelin classic, “Stairway To Heaven”.
The interweaving of sorrow and luminosity begins with the moody notes of low-slung strings and the gradual layering of rumbling drums, a wash of ambient sound, and the glimmering reverberations of a sinuous, soulful, and somber lead. As the lead soars, the music swells in glorious sound, still lined with melancholy but manifesting an aspect of majesty. The music’s urgency surges when the band introduce a jabbing riff, a darting lead, and the hammering of drums. The lead becomes a fantastic solo, in front of waves of searing fretwork. Accompanied by blasting snare-strikes, that lead melody seems to become even more intense and anguished
You’re more than three-and-a-half minutes into the song before the vocalist appears, in a harsh, growling fury. You continue to surf across the grim extravagance of the lead guitar and the gloomy whirr of the riffing, and even when the drummer locks into a less frenetic and more rocking rhythm, the guitar continues to send the spirit aloft, even as the vocalist howls like a wounded fighting beast.
The drums mount again toward another fusillade, furnishing the heated drive-train for another rise of anguished guitar expressiveness and another reverberating solo that flickers and rises like a column of whirling fire.
I really did not want this magnificent anthem to end. Fortunately, there are four other tracks on Via Dolorosa, one of which has previously been revealed (and a stream of which we’ve included along with our own premiere), that are equally riveting, and just as likely to leave you shaking your head in wonder. The album provides a further alert that although this year is rapidly approaching its final days, some of the year’s best albums still lie ahead. This is one of them.
1. Hallowed Terror (5:37)
2. Malaise (4:26)
3. Via Dolorosa (7:55)
4. Salvifici Doloris (9:09)
5. Atonement (5:50)
Total Time 33:00