(New NCS contributor Alex Atkinson has brought us the following review of a recently released EP by the Oregonian band Mizmor.)
Wit’s End is the funeral doom/black metal band Mizmor’s (aka Liam Neighbors) follow-up EP to 2019’s widely acclaimed Cairn album. Musically, Mizmor brings back the anguish they’ve become known for, offering up a cohesive half-hour of two tracks that demand focus. This is not background music for your workday, trust me.
The initial track, “Wit’s End”, is introduced with a spoken-word clip in which vocalist A.L.N. sets the intent of the following 14-minute piece. The hissing of the analogue tape recording is accented by a simple, melancholic guitar as feedback begins to erode, leading into the second movement of the track. With a few massive chords and thoughtful drums, the vocals are introduced with chilling agony.
The variability in A.L.N.’s vocal delivery adds a tremendous amount of weight to the tonality of the music, but arguably more importantly, retains a melodic sense of the running theme of the track. It portrays the frustration of a person hell-bent on caring for fellow humanity but being met with the lashings of our violent reality. The visceral emotion behind this style of doom metal is no doubt misanthropic, and there’s no lack of that feeling on “Wit’s End”, but the song achieves a point of understanding the root of the aggravation and our crushing inability to cope. Each phrase of “Wit’s End” builds on the last, enlightening bit by bit the overall grievances and anguish caused by the dregs of humanity; a reflection on the shackling of those who seek a way out of the sullage. It is a track that demands your focus and rewards you with a deeper understanding of the crown of thorns we collectively choose to wear but refuses to offer any hope of relief.
The second movement concludes with a rumbling guitar lead and surprisingly comforting vocals, at least compared to the agonistic display previously mentioned. This short-lived moment of quiet amongst the passing waves of agony does little to alleviate the grief and fear, but at least allows for a breath before beginning again. As we’re brought into the third movement with an unexpected bark, the melodies hint at an almost hopeful resolution to the grim picture thusly painted, but rest assured, any notion of hopefulness is swiftly negated as the vocals shatter any false reality painted in the moment. The third movement ends with A.L.N. belting out a shrill scream, giving rise once again to a quiet, simple guitar and lulling feedback as the song comes to a haunting conclusion.
The second track of the EP, “Pareidolia”, leans heavily on the ambient and drone aspects of funeral doom/black metal. Guided by waves of synth tones and hymnal voices, the track leads out of the grim landscape from “Wit’s End” and into a dream-church. Truth be told, the purpose in tracks such as “Pareidolia” is usually lost on me, but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Mizmor’s take. In the totality of the Wit’s End EP, it holds a place that I’m not quite sure could have been achieved through guitar music. The sweeping organ-esque sounds laying foundation for the reversed vocals with a touch of familiar analogue hiss provides an almost drunk sounding experience as compared to the hymnal beginnings of the track. I do not imagine this was unintentional.
The choice of “Pareidolia” as the track’s title leads me to believe I am to recognize this track as something it is not – that I’ve given the emotional tie-in of relief and hope to something that is otherwise a simple auditory pattern. The creation of a comforting pattern that I can shield myself from an otherwise obtuse reality filled with torment, hate, and violence. A reality filled with burden and responsibility. Why not succumb to the pareidolic image? Why choose reality?