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Whenever I am introduced to a new band, I instinctively go on to Encyclopaedia Metallum to see what genre they belong to (yes I categorize my music because humans love to organize). So when I was introduced to De Profundis recently (no I didn’t see them live when they played in India), I saw them mentioned as Progressive Extreme Metal on the aforementioned website. Now that would really raise expectations from any metal fan and so it raised mine as well. The actual album though, ended up performing a Wolverine-style berserker fury on my expectations.
The main problem with this album I found was that it lacked any form of emotional content. Though they are labelled as Progressive Extreme Metal, they fall more into a very generic form of Doom Metal. The entire album is riddled with the same old rhythms that Black Sabbath used on their 1st few albums, except at that time such music would have really sounded depressive. This, on the other hand, is completely dry. It is devoid of any form of emotion because of its generic nature. The very evenly-timed chordplay does not help matters and the vocals are very languid and belch more air than voice. The only factor worth praising is the deft bass playing by Indian-born Shoi Sengupta. But again, he shows all the technique but fails to deliver on the emotional front.
As a reviewer I like to think that not every bad album I hear is entirely devoid of good moments and this album has very few (about as many as the no of blades of grass in the Sahara desert). There are a few nice-clean guitar tone sections that add some ambient relief to the languid music, made even more languid-sounding by the sheer length of the songs. But it seems that was all. All in all, if you like your Doom Metal to be highly generic and have a null value of emotion on it, this is the album for you. But if you wish your Doom Metal to bleed sadness and sorrow like the music of Draconian or Mar de Grises, I would suggest staying away from this album.
British doom is heralded as being some of the most remarkable in the genres illustrious history, wearing the crown jewels with passion and pride. When we think back across the decades since doom hit the shores of Britain and beyond, this small isle that I call home has been at the center of the revolution and though it may not be leading the pack anymore, it still holds a firm place in the history books and within the hearts of the listeners worldwide. De Profundis, a death and doom hybrid, are perhaps more straightforward than a lot of the bands that have called this isle home. Bands like Pagan Altar began the journey many years prior to this act, constructing a formal and traditional sound that is familiar to the fans by now. It is then that we cross to the other side of the spectrum and delve deep into the dank and dark pits where sub-genres such as funeral doom have spawned from and we take into account the idealistic vision, which consists of numerous different perspectives, of doom presented by British bands such as the infamous Esoteric.
This blackened vision is akin to other notable genres, such as black metal, and is often accessible only to those who’s tastes lie in the extreme and harsher styles of metal. When we look into these areas of the doom field, De Profundis do not seem to make much sense, despite having an approach to death/doom that is not ground breaking in the slightest. They stick out like a sore thumb, creating an unfamiliar sound which is not bound by geography or history. With the history books in mind, De Profundis’ ‘Beyond Redemption’ definitely doesn’t etch its name in stone, or place itself in the limelight. There are certain redeeming features which make it enjoyable in the long run, but no saving graces to cause it to have an impact immediately. 2007 was a notable year from the metal industry all round. It is largely viewed as one of the most successful years for bands looking to further their careers, or like De Profundis, looking to establish a career which spans long and wide.
From what I have read, which hasn’t been an awful lot, 2007 was the most prosperous year for metal since its creation. New bands sprouted their wings, old bands were making come backs and middle of the road bands were set in their ways, recording and releasing successfully amidst the busy haze of the 2007 changing seasons. De Profundis themselves have received ample acclaim without generating too much of a stir in the underground. From what I have seen, I don’t think they’ve caused much of an impact on a grand scale, but beneath the hollow surface, De Profundis have exploited the influx of new and raw material that has put doom fans, in particular, in a good mood. ‘Beyond Redemption’ is the title for the self released debut from a band who’re still currently unsigned. Initially, I had expected something different to what I had received. Going by the modest reviews, I was ready and raring to go with this effort.
From what I understood, De Profundis brought something new to the British scene, which consists of numerous similar sounding bands in the mainstream and incapable acts in the underground who were struggling to cause the stir that was needed in order to break into the list of successful bands in 2007. ‘Beyond Redemption’ adds itself to the list of oddities, as opposed to the inaugural ‘best of’ list that the end of every year brings. Aspects of the music contrast negatively against other aspects, whilst there is also a middle ground, full of ‘what the’ moments. The vocals, whilst they do depict the lyrical themes of negativity and solitude based just on sound alone, they abruptly fixate themselves on crushing doom vocals, low and stricken with grief, and move away on to black metal wails, which makes the atmosphere and soundscapes previously established positively and constructively by the sweeping melodies of the cleaner instrumentation seem increasingly distance, offering a largely disjointed sound overall.
De Profundis were surprising, but not necessarily in the best possible way. Their sound is a lot cleaner than I had expected. The bass is audible throughout, which is a nice touch, but it doesn’t drive the atmospheric tendencies forward as well as I had hoped. The bass is an important tool as it lays the foundations for the atmosphere, giving it a darker impression and imprinting it with an emotive structure. De Profundis rely more on the two guitarists than they do on the bassist, who is largely ineffective. His lines give a generally odd texture to the music. Underlining subtle black metal influences, which also pokes its head out in the vocals. While songs like ‘Nihilism Vortex’ indicate a fine working of the bass and guitars together, others become dull and dreary without intending to sound like that. The death influences are also below par. They don’t do enough to stand out or strike the audience as worthy of inclusion.
Annoyingly, songs like ‘Nihilism Vortex’ reminds me of a specific black metal band, given its song similar structures, dissonant (yet awkward and oddly placed wails) vocals and production but I cannot remember which band for love nor money. Other songs possess a slower transgression, which may not come as a surprise to the typical doom metal fanatic. Another reason why which leads me to question those supposed death metal influences. Perhaps the bass is scattered with influences, sometimes sticking out much like it would in a death metal outfit, but amidst those slower and mid paced structures, the guitars and bass go about as well together as a butch muscle ridden man and a pink frilly skirt. ‘Beyond Redemption’ is highly unusual. Some elements blend well, some don’t. Production is a little flat, offering only a few varied textures to the music. Vocals need work and bass needs a new, more prominent role underneath the sparsely inspired guitars, which do make a habit of creating some smooth, yet hard hitting riffs. The future could be bright for this British band, but the present is somewhat murky.
De Profundis seems to be a band absolutely intent on going against the stereotypes presented to them by geography. I can safely say that while De Profundis plays doom/death metal, they offer essentially no resemblance at all to My Dying Bride, Anathema, or Paradise Lost. In fact, the band's style of doom/death doesn't sound much like any other bands out there today. While doom/death generally goes in one of two directions, those being the romantic style of My Dying Bride or the more misanthropic bent of a band like Winter, De Profundis takes a very different and unique approach to the whole thing, going for a more grandiose yet introspective bent. It is indeed one of the more unusual doom releases of the year.
While this is obviously death/doom metal, much of the riffing seems to be taken from what newer USBM artists are doing. Somewhat dissonant, dark, and with a good deal of tremolo, these riffs take the place of nearly everything that you would consider as traditional death or doom riffs. The band moves between tempos of moderate slowness to reasonably high speed, and there's a surprising lack of straight-up doom plodding like you would expect. The mid-paced sections actually resemble a band like Voivod much more than Candlemass, with strange, spacey riffing and surprisingly active drumming. On that note, the drums on 'Beyond Redemption' are much more kinetic than the majority of death/doom, with a wide variety of fills frequently employed, from snare rolls to quick flourishes of double bass and more abstract cymbal work. The bass, additionally, is a surprisingly prominent instrument, often playing radically different melodies from the guitars and adding a tense undercurrent to the music.
The riffing on this album is immensely hard to describe. Generally composed of two guitars, with one playing the bass rhythm and the other playing echoing single notes on a higher string or a separate lead, they are surprisingly atonal most of the time, and even the most melodic riffs get violated by a well-placed pinch harmonic or something similar. There's little in the way of crushing doom riffs; they're more subtle and intricate than that, with an almost NWOBHM edge to them at points (the riffing in the middle of 'Nihilism Vortex' is very Maidenesque, especially with the pronounced bass accompaniment). And yet, conversely, there are some really aggressive sections on this album as well: 'A Caustic Vexation' is quite intense with its blasting sections and growls. The vocals are another strange point of this release; mostly they're your average death growl mixed with the occasional cleans, but sometimes vocalist Craig Land will launch into a depressive black metal wail out of nowhere. The song structures themselves are similarly aberrant, with sections ending or starting quite abruptly, though it doesn't seem to disrupt the actual flow of the music much.
My general opinion of the album is good, though it isn't a very instantly enjoyable work. The band's lack of straightforward melody and more immediately recognizable elements makes 'Beyond Redemption' a harder listen than your average Swallow The Sun album, but it's probably more worthwhile as well. This is most certainly not the album to investigate if you're seeking romantic, weepy UK-style doom/death. Fans of Esoteric will appreciate this more than Anathema lovers. Though you should keep this in mind, I would still recommend 'Beyond Redemption' to all doom fans willing to look beyond the rather strictly defined conventions of the genre. It is a rewarding and deep listening experience with a long life to it, which is more than can be said for most music out there today.