Swords Of Dis - Melencolia review
|Swords Of Dis
02. Mask Of The Myriad
03. Sea Of Storms
05. Our Lady Of The Naked Flame
06. Oculus Diaboli
07. Oculus Dei
08. Eclipsing The Deathless Sun
I, Voidhanger Records certainly have a type: you know, the chaotic, dissonant, nightmare-inducing extreme metal offered up just this year by the likes of Bekor Qilish, Baring Teeth, Fleshvessel and Ôros Kaù. However, while these Voidhanger-core bands (for lack of a better term) continue to push the envelope for extreme metal, it’s arguably the label’s less cacophonic acts that offer up the most intriguing sounds.
Consider, for example, the unique and awe-inspiring psychedelic jazz drone conjured up by Neptunian Maximalism, or Incantvm’s unorthodox take on symphonic metal. You could also consider Swords Of Dis, a British duo who have recently joined the label. Comprised of singer Alice Corvinus and multi-instrumentalist Richard Corvinus, the pair have created a sophomore album in Melencolia that could be categorized as doom metal, and also black and death metal. However, I’m not sure ‘death doom’ or 'blackened doom' would be a fitting categorization; at least, it doesn’t sound like much extreme doom I’ve ever heard before.
Fundamentally, this is because the doom metal and the extreme metal (predominantly death, but with leanings towards black) act relatively distinct from one another, without ever feeling disconnected or conflicting. The doom on Melencolia is perhaps the primary component of the duo’s sound, and it is of an occult persuasion; Alice Corvinus delivers a tour de force on this album, her low-registered, full-bodied vibrato delivery and impassioned, soaring utterances capturing the feel of a priestess delivering a malevolent sermon.
The instrumentation during the clean vocal passages typically veers away from more traditional doom sounds, though; while regular haunting lead guitar melodies appear throughout the album, the riff guitar tone often has a fierceness to it that reminds me of 2000s Behemoth, a comparison that is aided by the frequent use of more extreme drumming, particularly regular double bass barrages. This intrinsic intensity to the ‘clean’ parts of the album makes the transitions into full-on extremity more natural, and Swords Of Dis don’t hold back on Melencolia; on top of outright Behemoth-esque death metal, there’s also a good share of sinister blackened textures and blast beats. To match the shift in intensity, Alice and Richard deliver what are termed ‘aggressive vocals’ in the album credits, which feels a bit of an understated description of the hellish howls, shrieks and growls that populate the record.
The musical framework of Melencolia is really quite compelling, which is needs to be, considering the album’s 70-minute runtime. Aside from the ominous introductory piece “Orison”, pretty much all the songs on the 10-song tracklist are substantial. “Mask Of The Myriad” gives a solid first look into the ‘lighter’ side of the band’s sound; across its 8 minutes, there’s only a couple of flirtations with full-blooded extremity, but the sinister guitar textures are punctuated throughout by hefty double bass rolls and emphatic synchronous guitar chugs, all while Alice weaves her spell. “Sea Of Storms” ups the ante with more Behemoth-style outbursts, but also has more memorable hooks.
The formula mostly remains the same across the next few songs, albeit with slight shifts in focus; for example, “Our Lady Of The Naked Flame” arguably prioritizes the lead guitar a bit more with some nice flourishes and a solo, while “Oculus Diaboli” focuses more on the vocals. The first song to substantially shake things up is “Oculus Dei”, which opts for a softer sound with sad guitar melodies. Unfortunately, this song is, for me, the biggest misstep on the record; the vocal melodies just fundamentally don’t go with the backing instrumentation, resulting in several awkward clashes. It’s helped by being the second shortest song on the record, but even still, the 4 minutes it lasts for do cause some of the momentum built up across the previous tracks to stall.
Thankfully, Melencolia mostly gets back on track for the final 3 songs. “Eclipsing The Deathless Sun” maintains the slightly more subdued tone of its predecessor, but reintroduces just a smidge of menace, which works very well in tandem with more effective vocal arrangements. The final two songs combine for almost 20 minutes of runtime; the first of these, “ִוְיָתָן”, offers another significant change in vibe, taking the band’s sound into a gloomier, more melancholic direction. The drumming is toned down, and while there are some creepy blackened textures, the guitars are mostly gentler, sad and more tender, and it’s a change that works well with the band’s sound. “Palimpsest” takes aspects of this track, as well as the extremity of previous songs, and offers what is effectively a summary of the whole album.
In another strong year for extreme doom, Swords Of Dis offer one of the more distinctive and inspired takes on the concept; despite occasional lapses in execution, Melencolia is a strong rendition of their style, and a worthy addition to the Voidhanger roster.
|Written on 09.12.2023 by Hey chief let's talk why not
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