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Guitarist/vocalist John Gossard has had success in both black and doom metal. His black metal band Weakling released only one album, “Dead as Dreams”, but to this day it stands as one of the high points in the history of American black metal. His funeral doom band Asunder never reached such heights, but did release two very good albums. Dispirit seems like the natural next step for Gossard; blackened doom metal. The first cut to emerge from Dispirit is the two track, thirty minute, “Rehearsal at Oboroten”. While the production is shoddy, the demo still reveals a band with haunting atmosphere and grandiose composition.
Dispirit play dark and haunting melodies that slowly crawl toward the listener, like a horrible demon in a nightmare from which one cannot awake. The melodies manage a tightrope walk between dissonant and melodious. The mixture recalls early Xasthur albums, where lullaby-like tunes are twisted into dark, demonic melodies. Single melodies are stretched out over long passages, allowing Gossard to explore inner workings of the melody through a series of sweeping leads and solos. The nightmarish melodies are accompanied by a variety of black metal howls (which also recall early Xasthur) and deep chants (similar to those found on Asunder albums). Both songs are well written, taking their time to play out all the dimensions of each passage before moving from one haunting melody to another. While the songs remain in slow to mid tempo throughout, there are enough shifts and buildups to keep the listener engaged throughout.
The weakness of the demo is the production, which is very gritty and muddy. On one hand, the grittiness of the production does help build the dark, dreamlike atmosphere Dispirit are going for. On the other hand, much of the musicianship—especially the bass and drums—is washed away and one really can’t hear what’s going on. Sometimes the melodies even get washed out (i.e. 2:00 to 3:40 in “Bitumen Amnii”). While Dispirit are not a band in need of crystal clear production, a little more balance in the mix would make all the details of the performance shine brighter. Of course, this is a demo, so poor production is not exactly a surprise.
Dispirit are certainly a band to look forward to in the future. They have discovered a great formula—thin, black metal lead guitar backed by a thick, doomy rhythm section, creating a deep atmosphere and a disquieting presence. Considering that the blackened doom sub-genre has thus far mostly produced busts, there is certainly a place in the currant metal landscape for Dispirit. I am eagerly looking forward to hearing what they sound like with cleaner production and over the length of an entire album. In the meantime, “Rehearsal at Oboroten” is a tasty appetizer that will hold fans over.
(Originally written for http://listenwell-nocturnal.blogspot.com/)
Debut demo tape from Dispirit, a band led by former Weakling/Asunder guitarist, John Gossard. Since Weakling has gained a small cult following over the years, many people will insist this is total Black Metal. But this insistence will be based more on pre-conceived ideas than on the legitimate listening attention required here. Sure, it has that influence, but there are many other things happening here as well and I think it takes a bit of an open mind to fully appreciate.
The cover art is as blurry as the music. I can't even tell what it is. But I suppose it suits the music perfectly, stirring up a feeling of unease and discordance with its wiggling lines and dark smudged colors.
As the title suggests, this is a "rehearsal" and one should not expect much from the production. But what does come through is rather interesting, just a bit too noisy and droning for my own tastes. Part of the rough sound is genuine accident, but as a fan of Gossard's music for some years now, I know the "blurry" sound is at least partially intentional.
Like Weakling, there are layers of guitars here that seem to bury all else. But unlike Weakling, they never really settle into a solid riff, preferring to drift around obscurely while the other instruments float around within the abyss of sound. It can be pretty terrifying at times, especially when the almost jokingly quiet vocals can be heard here and there. A screech here, a moan there, but overall just buried to hell. The result is deceptively effective though.
One pretty annoying factor here is the lack of audible drums, and they sort of highlight the general flaw of this production. While they are pretty present during the slower build up sections, once things speed up the snare all but disappears. I'm betting this is simply another casualty of poor production. But with music like this, which is so experimental and unorthodox to begin with, it's difficult to understand why they would not have waited to release something of a slightly higher quality of sound. In this way, I think the band is trying a little too hard to appear "pure" artistically at the expense of descent production.
All I can compare this too is Neurosis. Particularly "Souls at Zero." Although, and I do not mean this as a criticism, Dispirit is less Metal and remain on the more "droning" end of things. There are some who may argue that this is plenty Metal simply because the "feeling" is dark and scary, but there is much music with that sort of vibe that has not a guitar riff in it. Not that it really matters, but fans of more traditional metal may have a harder time getting into this.
This recording succeeds at one thing mainly, and that is creating a terrifying atmosphere. I don't think that was the only goal in mind when recording this thing, but I do think it was high on the list of priorities. But with drums and vocals so buried, it's hard to give this a higher rating.
Very interesting band that is one to watch in the coming years, without a doubt.