(We present a trio of album or EP reviews by DGR, delving into music of the doomed variety.)
One of the more reliable things about heavy metal outside of a yearly re-issue of Death‘s catalogue is that the end of year turnover/beginning of another is where a lot of doom releases like to insert themselves into the fray. It’s not surprising, given that it’s the cold season for sections of the world. With everything being painted as if it were covered in snow anyway, it makes sense that one of metal’s more melancholy genres steals a bit of the limelight.
Also not surprising, then, that the early part of my year was weirdly doom-dominated and not just by the three present in this write up but also with Author & Punishers Kruller hovering just outside the ring as well. I’m not the doom guy at the site – more often comfortable in my realms of death and grind – but that doesn’t mean I’ll make the genre draw the short straw all the time when it comes to focus. I just think there are people here that are way better at covering this style than I am.
You’ll note though that with these three, not all of them are from 2022 proper. Even though we’re making a valiant attempt to keep looking forward we still find ourselves ocassionally dragging ourselves back to the previous year with some of our discoveries. In this case it’s because one album came out on December 24th, 2021, and another is an EP containing three songs, two of which were singles released throughout the previous year. The third comes as a random stumbling while on break at work and may be one of the deeper journeys I’ve made into the ambient funeral-doom worlds that I’ve done in some time, especially since the last two that come to mind for me are Texas’ The Howling Void and Italy’s Void Of Silence.
INFIRMUM – THE GREAT UNKNOWN
Infirmum are a multi-musician doom collective hailing from Finland. Combining the forces of musician Timo Solonen with six other cohorts in the project’s brief time since its founding – having existed in one form or another since 2018 – Infirmum has keep busy on the music front already, releasing a small collective of singles, one album, and the EP that lies before us today.
Infirmum‘s most release release is The Great Unknown, which landed in the middle of January 2022. The twenty-one minutes of music on this EP collect together two singles – “Mask” and “The Great Unknown” – that had been released in the latter half of 2021 with one newer song, a sequel track to the song “Fearless” that had appeared on the group’s 2020 full-lenth release Walls Of Sorrow.
The Great Unknown is about as lush as you would expect this sort of cold and distant style of music to be. The opening moments of “Mask” are filled with lush keyboard work and a deep-throated growl, combined with a quieter wall of backing vocals and the slow lurch of guitar and drum that lays the groundwork for what we’re dealing with. It’s a gorgeous song with plenty of elements for building atmospherics and plenty of room for discovery because of that. The project being as far-reaching as it is means you also have a multi-fronted vocal attack and Infirmum make good use of that, combining a bellowing low with many a clean-sung line (and not the only time this will pop up in this grouping of artists either) so that as a listener you’re not only trekking through the imagined snowy fields of misery but also soaring above them as well. “Mask” is a good blueprint layer and introduction to the band while also being fairly recognizable as one of an army of keyboard-laden doom crawlers.
“Fearless Part II” and “The Great Unknown” are the songs where the many facets of Infirmum come into play because they stretch their reach a little wider. You’ll notice it not only in the increasing song length but also how much the vocal interplay is increased within those two songs. Infirmum wrote those tracks as larger journeys after the initial steps of “Mask” and they cover some ground with them here. They have many a melodic line slowly dancing in and out of focus within the camera-eye of each song and the chosen tempo never gets past a labored walk.
While a whole album of this might get a little brutal depending on how much the band have to offer, an EPs worth is a perfectly concise take on Infirmum‘s sound and where they’re setting their sights next. Twenty-one minutes across three gorgeous songs. Those of you doom fans who like your music movements with big keyboard swells and even larger anguished yells will likely have a good time here.
EVADNE – THE PALE LIGHT OF FIREFLIES
The second crawl through peat moss comes courtesy of Spain’s Evadne and their album The Pale Light Of Fireflies. Released on December 24th, 2021, The Pale Light Of Fireflies is the group’s fourth full-length, arriving on the long end of a four-year gap from its predecessor A Mother Named Death.
If there’s one thing you can commend Evadne for on a first brush with The Pale Light Of Fireflies it is that they stick incredibly well to an established blueprint that would have them standing right alongside the masters of this specific genre – especially the groups hailing from Finland, including Swallow The Sun, whose own release Moonflowers pairs incredibly well with The Pale Light Of Fireflies for a cavalcade of atmospheric misery sure to put frost on windows in a desert.
Unlike Infirmum above them in this archive, The Pale Light Of Fireflies is a more traditional full-length release and it asks for a little over an hour of your time, spread across eight songs that mostly stick to a seven-to-nine minute run time save for the closing anomaly at a scant just under five minutes. Of course, by invoking the name of at least two of Evadne‘s contemporaries you have a pretty good sense of what the musical style of this Valencia-based doom crew have to offer. Always haunting the periphery of my listening habits since its release at the very end of last year, The Pale Light Of Fireflies has been one of those releases where I’ve been hunting for the perfect time to bring it up. Now that Listmania has finally subsided and we’ve started our transitional ‘holy shit, look at the stuff we missed last year also holy fuck look at all the shit coming to this year’ period for the site, now is as good a time as any.
It’s hard to predict where people might zero in on an album like this one, where every song is so frustratingly consistent that it becomes more of a mood-piece than one with clear highlights. All of the songs on this release are enjoyable, and given that they’re all their own specific eight-or-so minute journey, you could pluck out songs randomly and genuinely be satisfied. Just the same, the hour-plus journey as a full run is just as pleasant because Evadne – after four releases – have the atmospheric slow-lurch down pat.
The Pale Light Of Fireflies opens incredibly strong too, so if you’re a fan of first statements that lay out the whole disc then “Shadows” does a fantastic job. The titular “The Pale Light Of Fireflies” is also one of those songs that serves as the centerpiece upon which the album turns. Yes, at a clear nine minutes it is the album’s longest song but it’s the one that feels like the first three tracks are building up to, and then everything that follows seeks to keep the album at that same height.
“Hollow Realms” and its opening anguished yells comes damned close too, arriving after an introspective and piano-heavy “Ablaze Dead Eyes” before it. By that point too, you’ll have recognized the multi-faceted vocal approach for the band as well, with “Ablaze Dead Eyes” being one of the more dense songs in terms of clean vocal singing. That sort of quiet moodiness returns to close out the release, with moments from “The Vacuum” seeming to cross between The Pale Light Of Fireflies‘ clean-sung and acoustic moments like the thread tying the whole release together. Arriving after what has already been an ardous journey through the cold, “The Vacuum” is a good way to close things out.
Sliding this in at the close of last year was a bold move but there’s probably no better time for a release befitting the darkened skies and cold weather that come along with wintertime than right then. It’s not one I would’ve recommended ringing the new year in with, but in the time since then The Pale Light Of Fireflies has show itself to be a damned fine slice of genre-fare. Evadne know what they’re doing here and they do it damn well. The Pale Light Of Fireflies pairs up well with just about any release from their fellow doom-crews these days.
EIRÐ – A VOIDCHASER’S ELEGY
A Voidchaser’s Elegy is the most recent release in this collection. It’s a four-song, hour-long journey of spacefaring ambient doom that came out in the middle of January. Eirð is a fairly prolific act, with a vast librrary of releases already, and A Voidchaser’s Elegy is the project’s fifth album, arriving fairly hot on the hells of a release just last year – around the same time – entitled Prelude To Void.
A Voidchaser’s Elegy is one of the more random stumbles that I’ve made in recent months, having shown up in the suggested tab of a YouTube rabbit hole while at work. So believe it or not the first time I heard the album was through the incredibly not ideal listening experience of having it blast through computer speakers at work while in the midst of building new sink fixtures. To paraphrase a coworker who wandered by after asking if it was still the same band only to be greeted with “I believe this might still be the same song…”, “This music is the sort of stuff meant to drown you isn’t it?”.
I would argue that’s only partially correct, given that A Voidchaser’s Elegy is meant to be a more ambient-crawler of a release, Eirð is making music that you are meant to get lost in, and in the case of the project’s space and mythology obsession, the sort of stuff you are meant to float among. A Voidchaser’s Elegy consists of only four songs and clocks in at well over an hour of time. The two songs in the center – “The Universal Spirit (Luna in Her Grace)” and “The Voidchaser” – are where the album gains most of its weight as each clocks in at over twenty-minutes of time easily. It’s the sort of maneuver a band pursues when they want to make it very, very clear that this is an album meant to be one long journey; when your bookend tracks are fifteen and five minutes long respectively it is a point made exceedingly clear.
A Voidchaser’s Elegy is the product of one Andreas Georg Libera and he is joined by vocalist Kristien Cools, whose singing stands in stark contrast to the music and the otherwise harsher vocals present. Mostly though, the album is about one big movement to another, with the quieter moments in between meant to be the decisive intervening calm. This isn’t a release focused heavily on the emotional intensity that most subsets of the doom-genre are known for, instead using its big wall of guitar and ethereal vocal work to be meditative. The listening sessions since, with headphones and on a handful of drives home – which have resulted in splitting it into two parts – have pretty much confirmed this. While it’s not something I’m prone to going to every day, Eirð‘s brand of doom does have a fascinating aspect to it.
A Voidchaser’s Elegy does accomplish its zen-like ambient goal. It moves in big and lumbering steps but not the type of movement where it seems like the auditory protagonist is struggling. It moves slowly because the movements in space are slow, and when you’re dealing with spiritualistic and cosmic subject matter, that sort of slow movement makes sense. Obviously it’s the two songs at the center that are the true throughline of A Voidchaser’s Elegy but the way the two blend into one-another make it so you almost have to follow the artist’s advice and approach it in one go.
A Voidchaser’s Elegy is meant for long journeys and if you’re hunting for something to float into and out of, then it is fantastic for that.