The relatively new Swedish band Deber named one of the songs on their debut album for the title of the album itself (Aspire To Affliction) and another for themselves. By far, those are the two shortest tracks, positioned in a such a way that one of them begins the record and the other ends it. In between are three monumental songs — a trio of towering edifices, in terms of both minutes and the imposing visions they create.
We say that Deber are a relatively new band, but the members aren’t newcomers, even if they’re pursuing some new directions here. These two are DIE (in charge of strings and organ), who is a member of Anguish and Ondskapt, and HCF (who handles drums and vocals). What they’ve turned their attention to in Deber is funeral doom, drawing upon the influence of such masters as Evoken, Worship, Skepticism, and Colosseum.
As the album title suggests, they aspire to sounds of affliction, and they have achieved their aspirations, with staggering power.
This is the kind of music that will lead some of us to ponder the paradoxes of existence. We might treasure our own lives, and the lives of those we love and others with whom we share our joys and downfalls. We might seek to leave a legacy made of our own achievements or of fond memories we have left in others because of some good we might have done. If none of that matters, then why should we wake up each day other than by pure animal instinct?
But on the other hand, both a vast uncaring universe and the small and large daily insults of existence tell us that none of that does matter, and the loudest voice which heralds that message is Death itself.
Why might Deber‘s album spawn such contemplations? Because it is so deeply haunting and hopeless.
Feelings of reverence, majesty, and gloom rise through the organ chords and chilling ambience in that relatively brief title track which opens the album. During the three massive songs that come next, Deber bring in ponderous and punishing drums, thunderous bass and guitar with the weight of sonic mountains, and deep, serrated, strangled vocals that sound both imperious and wretched.
The stringed instruments groan and crawl, and add their force to the music’s crushing percussive impacts, but it’s the organ that predominantly carries the melodies, augmented by guitar leads that wail in union with it or ring in isolation, and together they move the music among varying shades of very dark mood.
At times, the music sounds like a grasping for hope, and even hints at something glorious or even celestial — just there, just out of reach. There’s unmistakable grandeur in those moments, but behind them looms music that’s vast and cold, unyielding to pleas and hopes, as well as renditions of frightening calamity.
Like the strains of funeral doom that inspired Deber, their music is capable of creating spells, of enchanting the listener despite the feelings of dread, despair, and downfall it so powerfully creates, and thus the album is one that makes it easy to lose track of the minutes passing. Deber don’t attempt to reinvent the wheel but to walk faithfully in the footsteps of giants who preceded them, but they do so with such conviction and skill that following them (rather than wandering away) becomes a compulsion. Almost before you know it, the album is closing with the void-like wisp of a track that shares Deber‘s name
The way that “Decay” concludes makes it this writer’s favorite, and you could, if you choose, just listen to that one — or to “Pestilence” or “Soulbind” — and become immersed in an enthralling and soul-shaking experience. But much better yet would be to set aside the time needed to let the entire album blanket you from beginning to end.
Aspire To Affliction will be released by Personal Records on November 5th. If you haven’t figured it out by now, the label’s name reflects the conception of its owner — that the choices about what to release aren’t hemmed in by genre boundaries but instead by the quality of the music, by what the owner likes (and it’s clearly a tapestry of tastes).