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Loss’s mournful album Despond is equal parts heavy and beautiful. The guitar and bass parts on this album are elegantly harmonized throughout, creating an aura of two parallel, complementary riffs working together through most of the tracks. The bass playing is much more active than in most of the genre, and since the tempos are so slow and the drumming is so sparse, the bass can shine through the mix with the guitars. The drummer is not showy, and his very slow drum parts set the table for the the gorgeous guitar and bass playing. The production of this album is immaculate.
Mike Meacham’s vocals are very low growls and the timbre fits the hopeless milieu of the lyrics, which have an unblinking focus on suicidal depression. I hope the boys in the band are working through their depression issues with this music, because if they’re not, I’m afraid they’ll all be dead before we get a sophomore album! Kidding aside, the vocals and the music combine for a beautifully tragic atmosphere that scratches a very specific itch.
The album is made up of six primary songs, as well as an intro, outro, and a couple dark interludes. Considering the unrelenting tone of the record and the length of the songs, the 66-minute runtime can be hard to take in one sitting. While I understand that the songs need to be long due to the ploddingly slow tempos, a little editing could have helped keep the album tight and focused. On the whole, this is a stunning listen that really opened my eyes to what slower, doomier metal albums can be. It’s one of the standout albums I’ve heard in recent years.
You guys cannot be serious.
Like, I've seen some truly awful and dull albums get a ridiculous amount of praise from people before but this time it's almost as if there's some inside joke I'm not in on where we give praise to horrid albums for a laugh. There's no way in hell this tepid, crude album could really have this amount of acclaim. Just please tell me this is an elaborate joke so we can move on.
Ugh. Okay, whatever. A couple of things before we begin though: Yes, I adore doom metal. I listen to doom metal more than just about any other subgenre of metal, especially funeral doom - Esoteric, Evoken, you name it. I'm also a big fan of many of the bands that get a lot of praise for being very introspective and depressing - Warning is a prime example. All great bands, all have great outputs, no complaints from me. Secondly, I really wanted to like this, I try as hard as I can to make sure there's no bias in my opinion to any unfair extent. I was initially very excited with this an expected some highly emotional, dark and crushing doom metal. Where this is nothing unique, it doesn't need to be, it stands very well by itself.
But then I was unfortunately greeted by what can only be described as a complete and utter failure on nearly every single level that matters. Despond is tepid, dull and surprisingly even soft for an album of this kind, there's nearly no 'crushing' aspect to this whatsoever, the cleanliness and softness of the album completely cripples it. It doesn't even stop there, there's a myriad of issues with this album that just cut up any kind of potential it might have had - and to be fair there are aspects in this that show the band do have a shred of potential. Some of the riffs are really good despite how they're played in such a soft manner, some of the cleaner bits sound really good. 'Cut Up, Depressed and Alone' has a good riff and a nice break into a more quiet bit where the clean guitars and bass create a nice despondent groove, it shows that the band do know how to create atmosphere. Which is then subsequently ruined by the vocalist.
Guttural vocals aren't bad by any means, but here they just don't fit - doom metal like this is all about the negative emotions surrounding it. Perhaps not all doom metal like this, but certainly this album. Best of luck deciphering any of the emotion from this guy's delivery since every single word he sings sounds the same as the other apart from undistinguishable changes in syllables. I'm a believer in the fact that you don't have to decipher words to be able to feel the emotion in a performance but here all you get is this tepid low rumble that disrupts many of the good moments this album might have had. Similar to the guttural in Uaral's more doom-laden tracks, it's just distracting and sometimes even laughable. Perhaps if this album had an element of heaviness to it this delivery could have worked but the way this album sounds is literally the polar opposite of that and it just sounds ridiculous. As for more of a definition on the sound itself, the thick chords of doom aren't really present here. Loss use a more 'airy' and open kind of chord, slowly struck most of the time with a really melancholic kind of tone. This works some of the time, but becomes tiring very quickly when the stark difference between the vocal delivery and the soft style starts to grate at you more and more as the album plods along, and I mean plod literally. The pace of this album is just about unbearable, even by doom standards, simply because of how uninteresting and inoffensive everything in this album is.
Good moments are scarce - the death metal inspired section in 'Open Veins to a Curtain Closed' are a nice respite from the monotony, especially since the vocal delivery is more raspy and far more impressive. Not to mention the clean vocals used in 'Silent and Completely Overcome' is, again, a really nice respite. It's certainly not a vocal delivery I'd wish on the entire album but I found myself enjoying it more than any of the other moments. That is, until the guttural come back in with an almost laughable riff under it. The drums are standard and enjoyable, occasionally breaking out of the ordinary with a couple more chimes gracing the palette which makes the album a little bit less of a drudge so props to the drummer at least, shame he doesn't have better material to work with. I also far prefer it when albums that deal with strong themes do so with an ounce of grace and subtlety, something Loss can't seem to do. Don't read this as 'if it's not dressed up in metaphors I'm not interested', far from it, but with song titles like 'Conceptual Funeralism Unto the Final Act (of Being)' and 'Open Veins to a Curtain Closed' that these guys are trying so ridiculously hard to be as depressing as they can which is, again, very distracting.
This just about defines the album, small amounts of potential with the most distractingly awful things imaginable littered all over it. In fact it's so undepressing that it almost reaches its goal - almost. Ultimately there's very little to salvage, it's too soft to be striking and it's too offensively bad to even be background music thanks to the vocals and dreary delivery of just about everything. The bits with potential are cookie cutter at best, the rest is just a cringe-worthy reverb-laden mess.
So uhh, yeah, it's depressing all right. You can count on that.
In my mid-twenties, I would occasionally fall into deep bouts of depression. There were days in college where I felt so miserable that I wouldn’t even get out of bed. It felt like an immense buildup of pressure inside my skull, like someone had tied cinderblocks to my legs and dropped me into the ocean. Although I never once contemplated suicide during those days when the dark waters of despair lapped at my feet, I did often think about what it would be like to just curl up and die, and whether or not anyone would give a shit if I did.
Reflecting on those times, I often find myself wondering what causes a person to go from merely being depressed to suicidal. What pushes people over that edge, past the point of no return, to that terrifyingly dark place where salvation hangs from the end of a noose, or flows out of your veins across the edge of a razor blade? Having known someone who decided to take their own life, I’ve had multiple conversations concerning this subject, and they’ve brought me no closer to the answers. The most terrifying aspects of humanity are the ones we have no answers for, the ones that can’t be upheld to any standards of reason or logic. I can’t imagine a more disturbing thought than that of someone I know, a friend or loved one, deciding that it is better to erase their own existence than to live another day.
When mere words and thoughts won’t do for contemplating such heavy subjects, we can look to the higher language of the arts for a better understanding. We can stare into the abyss through the lens of art, study it closely, without experiencing all the dangers inherent. Of all the times I’ve stood at the precipice, Loss’ Despond might be the deepest, darkest glimpse into that cold, black void that I’ve ever encountered. It is an album that embraces despair on a level that’s practically unfathomable, communicating it with such totality that it can only be the work of musicians who’ve been to that edge and back.
Embracing elements of death metal, doom, noise/ambient and even black metal, Despond is the slow motion soundtrack to a mental funeral. Guitarist Mike Meacham’s vocals sound like the gurgling, suffocated anguish of a lone tortured entity erupting from that aforementioned abyss, his lyrics the poetry of the diseased and the damned. They offer no answers, no solace, only glimpses of an unescapable personal hell. Musically, the album is just as harrowing. Glacial chords carved from pure black ice and pulverizing death knell drum beats drag you down deeper and deeper into Loss’ world of hopelessness, forcing you to wallow in your own blood, shit, piss and vomit. It’s an album about giving up and letting go, with not even a speck of light penetrating its oppressive darkness.
Amidst Despond‘s world-destroying heaviness, there is melody. It flows slowly and deliberately throughout the album, often recalling the Peaceville Three in its mournfulness. Music this depressing shouldn’t be catchy, but somehow those sluggish melodies worm their way not just into your skull but into your fucking psyche, haunting you for days on end like a restless spirit. This is especially true of “Silent and Completely Overcome”, which features a guest vocal turn by Pallbearer’s Brett Campbell. Campbell’s eerie clean vocals lend a traditional doom vibe to the track, only to be engulfed by Meacham’s chasmal growl, the album’s last speck of humanity cast to the pits.
Nietzsche said that when we gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes back. Despond is over an hour of gazing into the abyss, and its monolithic sorrow will indeed gaze back, creeping into the very fabric of your being with repeated exposure. As I stated earlier, there are no answers to be found here, but the album will immerse you fully in the thoughts and emotions of someone who’s come to that awful conclusion that life is no longer worth living. If art is truly the window to man’s soul, then Loss have done an all too believable job of smashing out the glass and boarding it up forever.
Originally written for http://thatshowkidsdie.com
Even among metalheads, funeral doom is not a genre with wide appeal. The reason is probably that most bands in the genre are content simply to plod along without doing anything interesting. Even some of the good ones are happy with atmosphere alone. Only a handful of great funeral doom bands create mood and melody.
Nashville's Loss is one of those great funeral doom bands. Despond is only their first full-length, but they already display such mastery of the genre that I have no qualms about declaring their greatness.
In many ways, they sound like Sweden's Doom:VS. Loss paint with the same melodic palette, but they paint with broader, more deliberate strokes. The canvas is slathered with ultra-heavy guitars and bass, and sparse but steady drums, and it's highlighted with clean melodies and whisper-growls. A few respites from the heaviness, but not the darkness, can be found in the ambient "Deprived of the Void" and the piano-driven title track.
It's a rare funeral doom record where you can tell one song from another. As if the melody wasn't enough, there's some sonic exploration here to help. I don't know if there's a name for what the guitarist does at 0:33 in the Evoken-like "An Ill Body Seats My Sinking Sight", but it sends chills up my spine. Dissonance punctuates "Shallow Pulse". "Conceptual Funeralism Unto the Final Act (of Being)" spends a lot of time in the upper registers, while almost Benedictine backing vocals add drama. A highlight of the album, "Silent and Completely Overcome" has clean vocals, some eerie work on the guitar strings, and a bit of faster pace late in the song.
The Verdict: Despond will undoubtedly be hailed alongside The Call of the Wretched Sea and Antithesis of Light as one of the landmarks of the genre.
originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/
Loss are a fantastic funeral doom metal band from Nashville and boy are they depressed. Throughout the entirety of this album the band remains a constant pass...slow. Funeral doom is a genre that is a lot like death doom in its crawling pace and its grunted guttural vocals and Loss pull it off extremely well. Throughout the while album there is an overwhelming sense of depression, anxiety, and misanthropy. As I said in the title this album creates walls of grief which completely overcome you and make this record an extremely unique experience.
The album opens with a speaking over dissonant guitar providing an eerie feeling to start of the album. The next track "Open Veins to a Curtain Closed" starts with slow drumming and grunting from the vocalist Mike Meacham, as the guitar comes in the song really starts on its depressing track which is a perfect example of how the rest of the album will continue. The next track "Cut Up, Depressed and Alone" is suicidal anthem, portraying suicidal emotions and tendencies that make this art so depressing. The epic end of the song with almost soaring guitar over the slow moving distortion truly makes for an amazing end to the song. The next track "Deprived of the Void" is a noisy/drone/ambient track which leads the way into "An Ill Body Seats My Sinking Sight" which is another slow moving track with an amazing finale which ends in with climactic guitar which makes the effect of almost hopefulness which then turns back into a slow and low doom fest. After another instrumental, the title track "Shallow Pulse" and "Conceptual Funeralism Unto the Final Act (Of Being)" are two more slow and low doom tracks which portray their style beautifully like the rest of the album. Both contain murky and clean guitars, guttural vocals, and crawling drums. The highlight of the album has to be "Silent and Completely Overcome" which highlights clean vocals over the sluggish pace which adds to the depression because the vocals feel heartfelt and genuine, these paired with grunts make a truly intense experience. The song contains all of the elements which makes funeral doom so great. The final track "The Irreparable Act" is an ending of clean guitars and synthesizers which add an eerie feeling to the end of the record.
Overall this record is absolutely fantastic, the crawling pace, tormented vocals, and use of many different tones of guitars all make this record something very special. It is very highly recommended for anyone who enjoys doom metal and also for people who are trying to experience funeral doom for the first time. This album contains all of the best qualities of funeral doom making it an amazing display of the genre making this album amazing. So far it is my favorite release of 2011 and I don't see it leaving that spot anytime soon.