THE SLOW DEATH
Chaos Records (March 2015)
This is the third album from the Sydney-based sorrow-sellers, and it follows last year’s well-received split with Majestic Downfall. The Slow Death have been producing elegantly streamlined funeral doom since 2007, and their latest release sees them in excellent form. There are crawling riffs, gently mournful passages of picking and also liberally-indulged synthesisers, of the swooshing sci-fi variety and also the piano-forte sort. Repeat plays reveal the subtle differences that these keyboards make here and there throughout the album.
Pallbearer main-man Brett Campbell has once again signed up for guitar duties, and while he helps to deliver the kind of six-stringed heaviness that was maybe lacking from the latest Pallbearer album, the real focal point of the album is the constant duel between vocal styles.
‘Ark’ is the final recording from singer Gregg Williamson, who died of heart failure at the end of 2014. His slithering, festering growl is a diseased swamp above which rises the celestial lamentations of Mandy Andresen (Crone, Murkrat). This marked vocal split is a constant feature, and their voices – as well as those of guest singers -duel, harmonise, wail, spit and mourn.
‘Ark’ features six songs; five of them achingly long and processional, and the other a brief, atmospheric instrumental mercifully positioned at the halfway stage. Opening song ‘The Chosen Ones’ is a cataclysmic barrage of utter woe, and the mood goes downhill from there!
Some songs are more impactful than others: the mighty ‘Declamation’, for example, begins with a riff so appallingly miserable that your brain might temporarily shut down, and it then proceeds to crawl through a beautiful mist, offering glimmers of hope in the form of an alluring solo from Campbell, some angelic high-register work from Andresen, and even an chugging uptempo death-doom section. ‘Adrift’ is funeral doom heaven, ‘Perpetuate’ is big and epic, ‘Severance’ is awkward, ugly and less focused, while a handful of the riffs can feel slightly vague, as if designed to recede into the background.
The album is released as a limited edition (1,000 copies) by Mexico’s Chaos Records. Mournful Congregation fans will lap it up, while fans of doom metal in general will also find loads to enjoy lurking within this ‘Ark’, from the killer artwork to the superb interweaving vocal and guitar melodies. The Slow Death go gentle into that good night, and leave a low burning flame in the darkness.