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Inspired by the impending release of De Profundis’ third album I have decided to review their second. Based on the strength of ‘A Bleak Reflection’ I have high hopes for their new work.
On this site the band are described as ‘progressive extreme metal’ and while this is a fair description it doesn’t tell the whole story. They are progressive due to their long songs (all about ten minutes except an instrumental), intricate structures and accomplished instrumental skills but their doom edge is what stands out most for me. This album is heavy and atmospheric and as bleak sounding as its title suggests. Very doom. The guttural vocals also put this in the death/doom category and there is a detectable black metal quality in some places (for example in the fast paced parts of final brilliant song ‘The Mourner’). Altogether this makes De Profundis a band who take elements of multiple genres and heavy styles and turn them into something unique and satisfying.
Instrumentally, the guitar playing is great on this album, especially the lead lines that display a strong sense of melody. The bass is also very interesting, playing a lot of high notes on what I think sounds like a fretless and generally making its presence known a lot more than on your usual extreme metal album. These guys have real playing chemistry and make the powerful songs come alive through skilful use of dynamics (listen to the stop-start riffs of the best song on the album ‘Nocturnal Splendor’ to hear some metal greatness). On top of this the vocals of Craig Land sound amazing; guttural death grunts and screams that really give the songs a vicious presence and put this album firmly in the extreme end of things, no matter how progressive things get.
To make comparisons I would say that De Profundis are similar in style to My Dying Bride and Opeth, but easily form their own identity from common ingredients. These bands are a great place to start when considering De Profundis’ sound, but they are no mere tribute act and I expect great things from them in the future, judging by the quality on this album. Misery and gloom rarely sounds as accomplished as this, and ‘A Bleak Reflection’ is just a really great listen.
Having albums like De Profundis' "A Bleak Reflection" and Triptykon's "Eparistera Daimones" to review is like a football manager having four forwards in goalscoring form: not something you wish to complain about it but it can cause a few headaches getting the problems sorted. These two recently issued albums having been crying out for review for ages, and I'm going to start with the sophomore album of Londoners De Profundis, a band I recently saw live for the first time at Infernal Damnation VII and whom impressed me mightily with their technically complex fusion of doom, black and death metal that night.
At 8 songs and 69 minutes, De Profundis produce protracted statements of intent with their music, weaving majestic intricately woven passages of slow Opeth-ian metal into packages topping 8 minutes on most occasions, all encasing a huge range of riffs and movements within each. Come the end of the closing track, 11-minute "The Mourner", you are guaranteed to feel a sense of pride at having lasted the journey, and quite possibly a sense of bewilderment at the passion and artistic craft that must've gone into the albums' making for what is bound to be very limited reward. I mentioned Confessor in reference to De Profundis in my live review and their staccato structures, in conjunction with Opeth's raw feel and dramatic song structures, and My Dying Bride's feeling of bleakness goes some way to describing tracks like "Ablaze In Autumn's Fire" and "Cold Is The Grave". Where lead guitars forge their own route, the bass is fingered in an unusually funky and apparent fashion and Craig Land bellows out his lungs De Profundis sound a band expertly crafted in this progressive extreme metal field, belying the fact this is only the band's second album.
Most of this album's procession is of a gentle, slow-mid paced one, following on from the introductory track, "The Ephemeral Burden", which for once feels connected to what follows and not just a piece of soft piano slapped before bludgeoning thrash/death metal riffs. "Nocturnal Splendour" is the band's moment to let loose and show they are no one trick pony, as the backbone of biting black and death riffs sits with greater accuracy with Land's hoarse vocals and yet which at all times feels laboriously constructed in comparison to most other bands within the genre. Land's tones, for the most part raw growls akin to Mikael Åkerfeldt’s are not initially a comfortable fit with the music as great that the growls are the progression overtones throughout could be better served with moments of clean vocals as well. Perhaps in my world-weary ways repeated listens have nullified this problem to the point where I feel they now play together happily, taking the atmosphere that bit further downwards into classic My Dying Bride territory, which is never a bad thing.
This really is a very good album and one that I'm pleased has come to my attention. To hone their craft further would only involve suggesting greater vocal variation and ever more divinely engaging songs, but in this instance De Profundis have left little room for improvement such is the perfectly weighted production job and genuine artistic endeavour in every detail of the record. If you're looking for a 'challenging' metal record of the year I think we've just found it in "A Bleak Reflection".
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
De Profundis (not to be confused with the milestone album done by Vader) perform a progressive sort of funeral doom metal. Heralding from the UK the group's job with their second album, "A Bleak Reflection", is to make the listener feel depressed while still trying to put interesting spins on their music while being slowly extreme. The opening track is basically an introduction: quiet, bleak, sad, and depressing. It sets the tone but when "Ablaze In Autumn's Fire" comes on the music sounds nothing like the introduction. It is mid paced doom metal with death metal styled drumming and dark, evil vocals that growl in the style of Rapture, Mourning Beloveth and Funeral. If it wasn't for the jazzy, progressive moments from the guitar that sound completely out of place with the rest of the music, this would just be mediocre doom metal and nothing to get excited about. However, De Profundis has enough interesting interludes throughout their songs to keep listeners from being completely bored.
Many of the tracks on "A Bleak Reflection" are epic, so it takes a lot of interest to want to listen through the entire song. While most of the music here is repetitive riffs and growled vocals that don't really change in pitch, there are a few acoustic moments aside from the droning whine of the jazz guitar/bass. "Nocturnal Splendor" has an acoustic guitar moment with a few spoken word elements before things go back to the death doom style. "The Longing" begins with a great progressive acoustic/electric guitar section that sounds like something Opeth would do. It is an entirely instrumental piece so there's no vocals to ruin the music. Once fans are actually given a chance to listen to how musically good De Profundis is at being able to perform their genre, minus the vocals which sometimes overtake everything, a new appreciation can be found in the sense that maybe the group is more than just an average prog death doom band. The final track on the album is one of the better progressive metal songs because it balances the heavy aspects with plenty of progressive moments such as melodic interludes and plenty of the jazz bass guitar. It certainly makes the epic aspect of the song worth bearing. Even the pace of the more metal side of the song has been cranked up a bit so it doesn't sound so slow, repetitive and depressing. There's even a good rhythmic session near the end that is sure to get crowds at concerts excited before calming things down with an acoustic section that is very similar to the introductory track.
This album isn't the most progressive wonder on the planet, but it does a good job at being more than just some generic piece of metal. Fans of Ihsahn or My Dying Bride will probably like this a lot. If De Profundis take things one step further in their prog metal direction then these guys could become unstoppable. The longer songs can be hard to stomach, but it's worth listening to them just for the rare acoustic moments.
Written for www.brutalism.com