Friday, March 5, 2010


An early EP from Australian depressive romanticists Drowning the Light, exemplifying both their best and worst qualities. A mere five songs, with one being an intro piece and another being an ambient interlude. The remaining three tracks form the meat of the record, with two of them topping ten minutes each. Things open up with "Forgotten Marshes," a short exposition for harmonized guitars and plodding mechanized drums that is actually quite mournful and yearning and sets a melancholy mood from the outset. This leads right into the gargantuan title track, the song that justifies this EP's existence and illustrates all the qualities that make Drowning the Light a peerless band when they want to be. Better recorded than the rest of the record (maybe semi-professional, definitely above garage/bedroom level) this track drops you right in the thick of the pre-suicidal contemplation, the reflection before the razor gets dragged across the wrist. Drenched in fuzz and misery, with the first part being a simple repetitive "classic" black metal progression, so obvious and rooted in standard "pop" mentality (verse/chorus/verse, big hooky earworms) but so trenchant and affecting that you can't get it out of your head. This track pulls you right into its ocean of dismal memory and doesn't let go until your lungs are full of bitter, heavy regret. There is no optimism here. The second part comes in about five minutes in and is the same melody/progression writ for keyboards/synthesizers and obviously has a more ambient, wistful tone. Drums become less pronounced and serve more as a simple pacemaker. The real star here is the vocal performance. There are few black metal vocalists who can use their voice to convey true feelings of despair, agony and sorrow and DTL's Azorgh is one of them. Soaked in reverb, distortion and echo these vocals absolutely howl and seethe and cry, displaying a frightening intensity and emotional rawness that may be too much for some listeners to take-seriously, at some points here he sounds on the verge of tears. As the track grinds on the vocals become another element of texture, a sort of solo instrument borne of torment. I've never really heard anything like it, even on other DTL releases, and it's remarkable.
If the title track exemplifies the best of DTL then the remainder of the album certainly constitutes the worst, highlighting both the terrible productions values and the regrettable weakness of the material. Editing has always been the thorn in DTL's side-this band makes the mistake of thinking all of their output is worthy of release, and while that certainly makes for an extensive (and money-making) discography that drives collectors crazy, it also dilutes what could be a near flawless body of work. "Haunted Seas" is just a terrible song, a simple Darkthrone-esque charger with none of Darkthrone's ferocity or imagination-it's just boring and the fact that it's so poorly recorded only adds to the overall disappointment. The album ends with the 12 minute "Echoes of my Demise", a track that seeks to emulate the title composition's feelings of endless sinking but simply ends up being long and dull. The riffs aren't as engaging, the sound is horrible and the whole experience becomes grueling rather than enthralling. Keeping in mind that this was one of the band's earlier demos, the strength of a song like "Through the Noose of Existance" seems all the more extraordinary-the vision, here at least, is that accomplished and evocative. But the rest of the material reeks of the amateur's hand. The title track would have made a great side of a split 10" or 12", but good as it is, it can't anchor a demo entirely. For the DTL neophyte this is not a good starting point-for the completists, you need this for the title track at least but be wary of everything else.

No comments: