Descend Into Despair - Opium review




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Reviewer:
7.9
Band: Descend Into Despair
Album: Opium
Release date: May 2020


01. Ensh[r]ine
02. Antumbra
03. Dis[re]member


Radu foisted this album upon me with the suggestion that I am Metal Storm's "non-Romanian with the best expertise in reviewing Romanian music." Well, mulţumesc; I can never ignore a good buttering-up.

It's not just the flattery of the request, of course. Several members of Descend Into Despair play with the live crew of Clouds; frontman Xander Coza recently joined Pantheist and, during the last year of its life, played with Eye Of Solitude, one of the greatest funeral doom bands ever to weep bitterly whilst crawling across the jagged igneous crusts of a grief-blasted earth. You may be sensing a theme - a very Daniel Neagoe-scented theme - as was I, and yet I wouldn't say that Descend Into Despair presents any simple comparison to these groups aside from the heavy nature of their music, sonically and emotionally speaking. Opium has its own thing cooking.

Funeral doom is known worldwide for its insistence on taking its bloody time, but Opium wanders a bit before even blossoming into funeral doom at all; "Ensh[r]ine" opens with a spoken passage by Tara Vanflower of Lycia buttressed by dawn-of-a-new-world synths that foreshadow something more free-form and atmosphere-driven than what the album later becomes, though not without digression. Only after several minutes of stargazing do those synths dissolve into the protracted chord-smashing of doom metal, though they reemerge, oscillating lightly in the background, to provide some more traditional dramatic ambiance for the medieval death chamber touch.

Those keys are a fixture of Opium, possibly even the defining feature, if I had to choose something; although Descend Into Despair isn't the first funeral doom band to realize that keyed instruments can be sad, too, I don't believe I've ever heard such a band utilize them for this degree of atmospheric effect or exhibit influences of electronic music before. In a few particular places - notably the intro to the album and the midsection of "Antumbra" - the keys dial up some wubbly, warbling scales; they're very restrained, of course, but it's something new. When the lighter, spacier textures combine with the periodic tremolo-picked leads, the unusually airy sensation pushes the album into metalgaze territory, only the obstinate tempo of the drums and the circular gloom of the riffs pulling the songs back. These are all but brief developments and they by no means predominate the album, which is by and large a conventional funeral doom album, but I would like to hear some expansion of this aspect of the band - I'm not aware of many funeral doom artists that actually experiment with synths, as opposed to simply layering them on.

Vocal versatility provides an additional advantage to Opium; most often the vocals are deep, rumbling growls, the belch-of-ancient-crypts growl that works best with funeral doom, but sometimes they are shouted tortuously in the hardcore style. More rarely, Coza reveals his demulcent baritone, a gruff but emotional voice that I'd also like to hear more of. The guitar leads aren't at the level of Mournful Congregation or Profetus, but they do add a bit of color; taken with the very meaty drums I sometimes get a sort of nautical post-metal feeling.

The second track, "Antumbra," is a bit heavier than the first, with some more overt death metal riffing and blood-pumping percussion, but it's the third and final track, Descend Into Despair 3.0 You Can Dis(re)member, that is the highlight of the album, which sounds kind of dumb to say because it's 20 minutes long and one of only three songs… perhaps I should say that it is simply the best of the three, made so by the lilting, distorted, whining leads that blend with that beautiful baritone. Those first several minutes are truly the most unusual and intriguing part of the whole work. Eventually, the song threatens to fade out in the way the album began, lingering over some fading threads of melody while someone speaks overtop in the language of despair (which I assume is also Romanian), but eventually the wall falls back in, bringing both the growls and the clean vocals from earlier in the song - and then the album at last expels its final roar with its most intense explosion of energy yet. The song builds to a crushing climax… and then silence. It's an effective end to a great build-up.

The sound of Opium is rather light - not necessarily because of the focus on atmosphere or melody, but because of a certain emptiness that prevails during the lengthy stretches of conventional funeral doom, the responsibility for which I think is shared by the production and the songwriting. Where the album really holds my attention are the most unusual passages I've enumerated above, with the use of synths and strange melodies that you don't often hear in funeral doom; I think a full album that elaborated on those elements - or even an extension of the beginning of "Dis[re]member" - would be do more to capture the imagination of the grieving public, but Opium is still a cool coffin of its own.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 7
Production: 7


 



Written on 15.05.2020 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.


Comments

Comments: 6   Visited by: 56 users
15.05.2020 - 11:04
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Radu told me he dont care about romania bands
----
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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15.05.2020 - 12:52
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by Bad English on 15.05.2020 at 11:04

Radu told me he dont care about romania bands

I can make exceptions
----
- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.




2020 goodies
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15.05.2020 - 23:32
Dream Taster
The Enemy Within
Buna recenzie! Suna interesant.
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16.05.2020 - 00:05
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by Dream Taster on 15.05.2020 at 23:32

Buna recenzie! Suna interesant.

Acesta este acum un fir romanesc. Repede: postati manele!
----
- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.




2020 goodies
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16.05.2020 - 01:57
Troy Killjoy
perfunctionist
Written by RaduP on 16.05.2020 at 00:05

Acesta este acum un fir romanesc. Repede: postati manele!

You know we're gonna need a translation for these comments or you'll both have to die.
----
I have no memory of this place.
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16.05.2020 - 04:40
Dream Taster
The Enemy Within
Written by Troy Killjoy on 16.05.2020 at 01:57

Written by RaduP on 16.05.2020 at 00:05

Acesta este acum un fir romanesc. Repede: postati manele!

You know we're gonna need a translation for these comments or you'll both have to die.

I'm ready to die for the beauty of the Romanian language ;-)
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