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If for some reason leprechauns where metal, and their treasure at the end of the rainbow was some amazing metal albums instead of a pot of gold, you can bet this would be among the haul.
It seems to me that for whatever reason this band never really got a whole lot of attention when they where active, and even though someone went through the trouble to release this pretty awesome collection of both of their albums, recognition didn't seem to pick up afterward either. Maybe it was some sort of stigma that American doom/death bands aren't as good as their European counterparts, and while that generally may or may not be true depending on who you ask, Dusk should have been exempted from this generalization.
The music is somber, depressing, haunting, crushing, and amazingly catchy. It's got a good sense of melody...without being sounding cheesy or "gothic". It's also got some awesome riffs. When I first heard this band, with their Majestic Thou In Ruin album, I barely even noticed anything but the awesome riffs. They are slow, but not so slow that they are inaccessible, they are heavy, and they are fucking awesome. Nearly every song they've composed that I've heard, has at least 1 or 2 INCREDIBLE riffs. Alright, enough with the riff talk...I'm beginning to sound like some sort of stoner rock retard who is all about the riffage.
The main vocals are entirely deep growls, and they didn't resort to shitty clean male vocals to convey any emotional garbage at any point during their existence to my knowledge. They do use some clean Gregorian style chanting on the second part of this disc (from ...Majestic Thou In Ruin onwards) that hides itself behind the main the vocals and they does a very good job in keeping the growls from feeling monotonous. This is good because the song became longer at this point, and it adds another excellent layer to the music. They also pushed the keyboards to the background here, although to me they didn't seem really in the foreground in the earlier part of this CD either.
If what I suspected at the beginning of this review is true, and Dusk are somehow horribly overlooked, this needs to change. I implore anyone who reads this review who likes either doom or mid-paced death metal to give this album a shot. It's sort of hard to find these days, but it's absolutely worth the trouble in tracking it down. Help put these guys deservedly on the doom/death map, where they without a doubt belong.
This is a release that truly took some time to grow on me. I never had any trouble liking the music, but it did take me some time to truly appreciate what sets this band apart. This isn’t solely based on geographic factors (this band hailed from Green Bay, Wisconsin of all places) but also, most importantly, on their music. This release is a compilation of all the bands material released to that point but had gone out of print. This includes the self-titled debut, their last release, the …Majestic Thou In Ruin EP and a track from a compilation album entitled Yearning For Eternity. This was previously thought to have included all of the bands material but a newly released split with Aphotic features some previously unreleased material and one wonders how many more of these unreleased material compilations will see the light within the next few years. Alright, longwinded intro aside, lets get into the music!
The album begins with a low-pitched keyboard melody. If this were any other Doom band, this keyboard intro would be laced with melancholy and be drawn out in nature. But Dusk is no ordinary Doom band; the keyboards are foreboding and menacing. The melody is barley given the chance to settle in when the guitars enter. At first they harmonize wonderfully with the keyboards but gradually the keyboards fade out and the guitars are brought to the forefront. After the first verse the band shows once again how unique they are. Whereas most bands would be content to go no faster than mid-tempo rhythms, Dusk explode into some furious, aggressive riffing that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Incantation album.
For the next 30 minutes they go to exhibit some of the most furious and aggressive riffing in the history of Doom Metal. Speed-wise this riffing is more mid-tempo, but despite, or maybe because, of the mid-tempo pace I can easily say that many of the riffs on this album are among the most aggressive I’ve ever heard. They aren’t afraid of blast-beats, double-bass rolls or stop-start rhythms either. Consider that this was released in the mid-nineties and you’re able to see how ahead of their time they were. Even today most Doom bands avoid faster rhythms like the plague.
They seamlessly switch from slower parts into more aggressive parts. This band is able to pack a relatively high number of riffs into an average song length of 5 minutes. The songwriting is truly brilliant; the interplay between the keyboards and the guitars is particularly worthy of praise. There are times when the two will play counterpoint to a melody and others when the guitars will slam on some power chords while the keyboard takes the lead. Although this approach is hardly novel, the way in which this band does it is particularly brilliant. Element of Symmetry and Mourning Shadow showcase some of the better moments of this interplay.
The aggressive riffing really creates an unsettling aura to the album, especially when it contrasts with the relatively peaceful keyboards and occasional uses of arpegiated clean guitar lines.
There are some subtleties that Dusk are able to incorporate into their music that I find really appealing. These are most apparent on the second track, Element of Symmetry. During the part when the band goes into some stop-start rhythms the guitars switch channels with each time the power chords are struck. It’s a simple but effective tool that reinforces the unsettling nature of the guitar riffing. There a few samples used on this disc, as they are used sparingly they contribute more to the disc. The aforementioned song Element of Symmetry ends with a sample from the movie Hellraiser (“The suffering…The sweet suffering…”) that is just so apt to describing nature of the music on this disc.
I feel the best song on the self-titled album would be the closer Mourning Shadow. The song begins with a melancholic keyboard intro, as the guitars come keyboards play the same melody but at a higher octave. For the next 4 minutes the song is an orgy of awesome, mid-tempo riffs. The music ends abruptly after the last verse. The silence is ended after a half-second as the intro theme is reprised once again.
Some nature sounds signal that the self-titled is over and the beginning of the …Majestic Thou in Ruin EP. The use of nature sounds may sound clichéd or cheesy but I think it works in this context. It’s used only to open and close the opening track on the EP (the title song) and the lyrics throughout the EP are replete with wonderful nature imagery.
This EP was released two years after the full length and some changes are already apparent. The music is still mostly mid-paced, although the faster sections don’t appear as often, the songs are longer (all four of the songs hover around the 8 minute mark) and they’ve incorporated some new elements into their music. Chief among these is the use of “ambient” vocal chants. Low sounding chants, similar to Gregorian chanting, often accompany the vocals. The effect is truly haunting as the clean and growling vocal style overlap, and at times operate in a call-and-response method. Female vocals are another new feature, thankfully only featured in one song, The Transfiguration (And It Was So).
The keyboards are still used, although they seem relegated to more a background role. However on Thy Bitter Woe they keyboards supply the main melody to this song, this along with the chanting vocals make it one of the more haunting moments on the disc.
The last song on the disc is taken from a compilation. It’s more in the style of the songs from the EP but with a shorter length more common of the self-titled. Other than that it isn’t particularly noteworthy.
My only qualm with the Majestic… EP is the production. On the self-titled the production was adequate but nothing special. On the EP the guitars are muddier and the snare drum has this annoying tin-can-like klunkish sound to it whenever it’s struck.
So after many listens I’m now convinced that this is an essential Doom release. That most of this bands material is now on one disc as opposed to being out of print is a very convenient thing. If Sorrow were slowed-down Death Metal, then Dusk are sped up Doom Metal. I’d recommend this to any enthusiast of Doom/Death Metal and anyone just getting into Doom from Death Metal but can’t yet tolerate slow tempos.