(released May 21st 2020, yet the scroll-down menu does not go back that far anymore…)
Country (for what it’s worth): Romania
Members: Alex Costin (bass guitars), Flaviu Roșca (synths & piano), Xander Coza (vocals, guitars, synths), Liviu Pop (guitars), Luca Breaz (drums & percussions), Cosmin Farcǎu (guitars), Florentin Popa (backing vocals & field-recordings)
Lyrics: Florentin Popa
Mix: Indee Rehal-Sagoo
Mastering: Greg Chandler (Priory Recording Studio)
Type: three-folded (six-paged) compact-disc with lyrics
Cover- & inner artwork: István Bába; cover-painting based on The Birth Of Venus (by Botticelli), if I am not mistaken
Genre: dismal, onerous Funeral Doom Metal
First this: this Romanian band did split-up last year (2023) after a small hand full of impressive recordings. Sad…
This review will deal with their last full-length, which consists of three extremely lengthy compositions (in between seventeen and more than twenty-two minutes), which go strongly on in the vein of Vanity Devotion, The Bearer Of All Storms and Synaptic Veil. It was release at the end of Spring 2020, yet since it is never, ever, too late to write a review on such marvelous material…
Opium opens with ensh[r]ine (22:27), which starts quite in some dark fairytale-like manner; dreamlike synth-waves get joined by a narrative female voice (¹) (it sort of reminds of Autumn Tears, if you want to), while the keyboard-melodies grow in richness, and while ethereal female chants enter. After a (short) while, cosmic-like electronic inputs join, painting a colorful, yet at the same time quite misty, landscape, as if a kaleidoscope of swirling tinctures shines through a dense and mysterious fog.
(¹) performed by Lycia’s Tara VanFlower; the introducing fragment of ensh[r]ine’s poetry probably (undoubtedly) refers to her solo-album This Womb Like Liquid Honey, I think…
After three minutes, things shift into / towards a rather morbid, funereal orbit, when the airy content of the first minutes gets mingled with a harsher projection. Guitar-based drones and heavy drum-beats at first, soon evolving into a cenotaph of granite pith, take over the introduction. Very heavy yet dreary strings, thunderous drum-patterns, down-based basses and mesmeric keyboards get woven into a mostly abyssal, murky experience, enriched by the arid vocals. The main voice’s timbre is of the deadliest kind: enormously deep and guttural, almost lifeless in essence, like beastly growls echoing through a deserted valley, echoing in between the barren, sharp-rocked peaks that surround this isolated ravine. Besides, some eerie whispers, some blackened screams, and some more frustrated shouts too do contribute within this forlorn adventure.
I am the wheel that treads upon itself / and yet I can’t stop turning / I am the ember where the anguish dwells / warm your hands as I’m burning / plasma spun from fire / set my breath ablaze / holding my own cinders / in an ashes haze…
In the tradition of Funeral Doom’s nature, this track does not lack acoustic intermezzos. At eight minutes and something, for example, things fade back into a more introspective, serene fragment, yet maintaining the characteristic heaviness of sphere somehow. Semi-acoustic guitars, additional synth-lines and harmonious six-stringed leads get canalized into a passage of wretch and wrath. Mind these monolithic drum-patterns at half of the track! The track continues this way, with burdensome parts interacting organically with pieces of transcendental ambience, with reverberating harmonies, with in-depth sonic explorations of the psyche. The outro then again, by the way, starts with droning chords, before smoothly evolving into a semi-sacral fragment with polyphonic choirs and chants, both male and female.
The second elegy, Antumbra (17:08), opens in an utterly melancho-aggrieved way, with acoustic and semi-acoustic guitars (hinting to comparable fragments within DSBM / Doomgaze-alike spheres) and gloomy waves of refined synth-elegance, like the vocalization of sorrowful chants of elves in a misty wood. More string-chords and additional percussions enter, and slowly things evolve towards heavier dimensions. After a short while, the interplay of the characteristic deep-growling throat (with some shouting on the background), of the hypnotizing tremolo-picked leads, of the roaring drums, and of the low-tuned rhythm string section, paint a landscape of shadowy beauty; a fairness of endarkenment and shapelessness, like embers hiding behind their own glow.
Who am I, immolated from skin down to marrow / like an ash-tree with cinder under its bark / am I the bleak void, am I the spark / am I a burnt piece of clay running fallow?
I am the antumbra of my own shadow / but it will soon be dark…
Here too, everything continuously evolves; the whole permanently expands and decreases, cracks and fades. But the coolest thing is that Descend Into Despair do this in a mostly organic manner. An allusion of Gothic-styled Doom-Death majesty often injects this song’s omphalos, especially during the few heavier excerpts (that fragment at about half of this epic is a notable example, with those massive riffs and combative drums), and caused / supported as well through the semi-narcotic, even unique keyboard-lines. The last segment, then again, offers us an enthralling form of nebulous and mystic, cinematic-oriented Dark Dungeon Ambient.
Opium ands with dis[re]member (19:54), which starts, once again, quite integer, yet then again more ominous and imminent than the former compositions. Actually, the opening sequence has a big deal of Shoegaze-like elegance with a fine-tuned DSBM-like attitude, through the finely plucked guitar performance (recorded in a multiple-layered abundancy, secretive yet prominent at once) and through the unique, even Sad Jazz oriented percussions; and not to forget: the chimes and bells, the spooky strings, and the grand piano, albeit short in appearance. This goes as from the introvert first minutes, over to the slightly intensified part (as from [almost] the third minute). Remarkable are Xander’s vocals, for he does not only growl and grunt, yet he makes use of a baritone-like timbre too. It’s personal and emotional, piercing the listener right in the middle of his / her heart.
My arms seized by shivers / can’t cover my face in shame / I’ve drunk from a river / I can’t recall its name…
So many things do happen, with at eight minutes or so another outstanding excerpt (and I repeat: the transition in between all fragments goes accordingly organic), which transports the listener’s mind towards an unphysical dimension of awe and veneration. Soon it augments once more into shapes of droning weight, supported by its majestic torpor, executed through rumbling drums, melodic and crafted riffage, ghostly synths and snarling vocals that crawl out of the darkest pit. At thirteen minutes, dis[re]member calms down once again, with eerie guitars, acoustic strings and dreamy basses, eventually incorporated by a spoken sample (in Romanian, I think). The grand finale gets carried by a monumental interplay of mature string-handling and, anew, that baritone voice (and additional clean voices), growing towards a colossal explosion of strings, screams and percussions; ah, purely captivating, intensely magisterial, immensely overwhelming…