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Came across Process of Guilt by happy accident after hearing and reviewing a split Caina / White Medal EP and then discovering that Caina had also done a split recording with these guys from Evora in Portugal. "Faemin" is the band's third full-length and consists of five songs which dwell on and explore states of mind and being such as emptiness and despair. The songs have one-word titles which taken together separately from the lyrics might suggest a narrative of sinning, reaping the consequences of sin, doing penance and achieving a state beyond ... which turns out not necessarily to be grace.
"Empire" is a grand opener to the album, heralded by long drone, a repeating ringing riff and immense thundering percussion beats. The song builds up slowly and steadily, ratcheting up the tension and atmospheric intensity with deft changes and variations in the beats, and occasionally dispelling unease through crashing cymbals and accompanying guitar slash riffs. The vocal is raw and roaring when it appears but much of the track is instrumental. There is just enough guitar in the background in the song's first half to lend an edgy, abrasive noise texture to proceedings, otherwise that part of the track is almost completely dominated by percussion. Suddenly the tension breaks forth and guitars and drums literally gush out with force and pent-up fury and vocalist Hugo Santos roars out his anger.
The harsh guitar noise textures continue into "Blindfold" which is a plea to face the truth of one's existence and discontinue living a life based on lies, greed and cowardice. The percussion is strong and seems to encourage the rest of the music to flow. Now lead guitar is allowed to soar high in piercing anguished tones. After a steady climb, the climax erupts in wave after wave of guitar molass driven by rolling drums. The track ends on a prolonged guitar feedback drone that links to "Harvest", a stately dark piece with a screeching guitar feedback echo in some parts and a screaming vocal amid rather more laid-back drumming than what's gone before and a harsh steely guitar noise layer. The lead guitar has a slightly wobbly tone that introduces a slight feeling of fear and impending horror.
"Cleanse" appears to be a warning of doom to those of us who continue living by falsehood: the song is suitably doomy in its use of space and echo to sculpt the guitar tones and riffs and induce a sense of darkening despair as the world starts to cave in on us. The percussion sticks to its usual time-keeping function while lead guitar blats clear-toned resonant riffs and a grinding bass rhythm provides the harshness that adds to the song's sense of impending fate. The song breaks into a rolling climax which ends on an extended feedback drone, similar to "Blindfold" in its ending.
The title track is a strong crunchy conclusion to the album and the messages it has thrown up along the way: the song expresses total despair at the physical and existential darkness that has engulfed humanity, perhaps forever.
All the way through "Faemin" is a solid and dependable effort where the musicians know exactly what to do and what's expected of them, and deliver precisely to those expectations. Songs are fairly similar in their structure: they build up and up on repeating riffs and constant rhythms to a climax that opens the flood-gates and allows the reined-in tension and anger to rush through but in a controlled way. Songs may end abruptly or sound off on an extended high-pitched feedback drone. The style of music seems to be as much influenced by hardcore elements as sludge doom and death metal; there is real if restrained anger in the vocals and the music tends to be very straightforward and business-like. Rarely does the lead guitar zing off on unexpected solo journeys. Everyone works to a common cause and there is no deviation. For most Process of Guilt fans, this will be enough.
I'd prefer something a little less controlled and with more emotion and a stronger, darker atmosphere in line with the album's theme but that is just my opinion. On the next album perhaps Process of Guilt should take the music up a notch into something more atmospheric, noisy and with a bit of chaos: it would be a natural progression from "Faemin" in style.
The Portuguese doom outfit Process Of Guilt is finally back with its much vaunted third album. After a couple of full-lengths and a remix compilation, they now present the final piece in their evolutionary ladder.
It was only three years ago that Erosion hit the international scene very much like an apocalyptic event or terrorist attack, rapidly catapulting to the international spotlight what was priorly recognized as just another doom outfit that swerved the drinking bowl into the British fountain of inspiration. That 2009 event, that album alone, that monolithic effort that drawn as much from death/doom as it did from atmospheric sludge and post-hardcore, presented a new setting and a new scenario for this amazing band to revel upon. Feasting upon our weary souls, frightened by its initial impact and squandered around by its intensity, Erosion did exactly that; it eroded our very souls and minds into thin air, carrying our spirits away into the wind and travelling unto unknown destinations. Much expectation was created by that effort and many would’ve thought that an event of such proportions should’ve been just a chance of fate, a trial of the gods which was happily won for once. No one could anticipate anything remotely more stunning or worthy of praise than that, even more considering it had been released by a small underground band from a tiny country on a local label. No one could have guessed what would come after that…
As an assumed adept and follower of this band’s work since their first album it was hard for me to fathom anything less than absolute perfection from this new work. Alas, in my review for Erosion I did exactly that, raised an expectation for something life-threatening and game-changing in the form of its follow-up. Signs of shift were present and scattered throughout that work, with the leanings to post-metal and the tribalistic nuances of the gigantic name in the scene, Neurosis, being really distinctive while still feeling like just that, influences. Never have they “stole” Neurosis’ sound but instead borrowed its creative juices to form a sonic escapade into the darkest reaches of human mind, making that album some sort of hybrid between their former self, rooted in traditional death/doom from the early nineties, and incorporating more ambiences and post-rock influences, ultimately making it a milestone in modern doom. Faemin is yet again a gigantic transition from its predecessor, a massive quantum leap in songwriting that not only makes it an impressive album but that also marks itself as a totally separate soundstage. Process Of Guilt like doing this, constantly evolving instead of going with the flow, and if anything is more worthy of accolade than this, then it would be the band’s ability to endure such constant shifting with the soothing grace and enthralling presence that they do.
The album is solely composed by five songs, each of them running well over six minutes, making for an album which is, to sum it up succinctly, short and concise. The opening track, “Empire”, brings a wall of feedback and guitars drenched in reverb, droning on and on that single riff with a sludgy momentum, building up the tension more and more as if a volcano was silently preparing to furiously burst in a roaring blast. This build-up of tension is held up for pretty much the entirety of song, with small deviations providing for pseudo-climaxes that make you cling your teeth in despair and be left with all the needed release pending in time. The passage of the sixth minute provides for some relief of this colossal weight that brings about all your inner strife, but the sheer phrasing repetition provided by the band never lets you truly escape, and so the release is postponed until “Blindfold” enters the stage. It is only here that finally you feel the breaking up of the built up tension slowly steaming off in a cathartic rage that’s violently released through a riff that wouldn’t be out of place in an album like Given To The Rising. The rhythm section finally shows its unrelenting face and the tribal influences creep once more into it; but it’s actually the hardcore side that we see more in this eight minutes piece, with brutal breakdowns and mid-paced sections that completely demolish you. Hugo shows clearly that he’s not kidding and his snarl has become even more spiteful and hardcore-based, with a higher pitch, leaving behind the typical death/doom grunt. Again repetition is the name of the game, and it wouldn’t be such a greatly achieved one if the riffs present weren’t as hate-fueled as they are.
The feedback drones in and out and once again you’re struck by a continuing pattern of sludgy riffs and hardcore vocals, leveling your last remnant of consciousness that had still resisted to the first two pieces of aural assault hitting you. “Harvest” is the shortest song of the album and it clearly encompasses its concept properly; a torrent of furious cries that have left a state of bewailing melancholia to become bitter anger. The apathy became fury and the disconsolation has been replaced by pure and utter spite. The organism lives once more after being thrown back into its hard thick shell for mending of its wounds, and it’s now time to hatch vividly and relentlessly into this new world with renewed strength. Strength through anger, power through chaos and might accomplished by the sheer leveling of your senses. “Cleanse” turns the shift of the album into a more meditative state, slowing the tempestuous storms into a sense of hovering respite that is still as fleeting as light during sundown. The calmer pace and more melodic sense of songwriting are but a hypnotic entrapment that leaves you wandering in your mind and lost in your thoughts. Again the build-up of tension is amazingly conceived and brilliantly executed, as shown through the thunderous and thick bass lines that drive it along with the shimmering drumming accompanying, making each cymbal stroke resonate alongside your synapses. Here though, as opposed to the opener, release does happen by the last couple of minutes. Still it is clinically controlled as if it was holding you up for one last impending moment.
And so the title track arrives to pummel you down with the remaining strokes of joy and anger, through a desolate and barren grey landscape where nothing grows. Famine… starvation… anger… this is what it’s all about! The ever-consuming presence of the locust in your mental landscape, devouring all prospects of life and happiness until there’s nothing left but a dark and hollow void that consumes existence itself. And then the parasitic organism just flies away into another pasture to brutally raze upon it. Faemin describes all this; the entire struggle between you and the locust inside your mind, showcasing the titanic struggle between mind and matter, and showing all the raging battle that is constantly fought in your everyday life. Emotion at its rawest boiling point as shown by the meeting of the half point of the song where this enthralling riff leads you through several minutes of cruel contemplation, climaxing more and more with reverberant tremolo leads that fill the air with static and finally complete the imprinting of your mind and soul.
I live for albums like this, the ones that aren’t afraid to take a look at life and dwell in its true colours. The band brings us this work, made up through their existences and life experiences, and you end up feeling as if it was your own heart and mind put into it, as if the very fabric of your life had been altered by its passage. There are those who follow and those who lead, and as the tales recount he who kills the king becomes the king himself. It’s with this thought in mind and a target in Neurosis that Process Of Guilt delivers their best effort yet, leaving behind everything else that they’ve done priorly, while still sounding like themselves. Renounce and Erosion aren’t rendered useless because of Faemin, and frankly none of their albums can be directly compared, if not to describe the band’s evolutionary stepping, but they have indeed become obsolete when compared to this new work. As I said above, the band and its members don’t feel contempt in finding a winning formula to write albums because to them it’s the road travelled between each work that counts, and that’s what ultimately molds and shapes its final outcome. The process of guilt is the road we travel every day of our lives. We may cheat our way into a victorious ending many times, but honestly speaking, this is something the band will never, ever do. Their desire to continuously travel the path of life and its emotional outlines is what makes them, and by extension their sound, so genuine. This album might very well be the end of a fantastic cycle, and if so it is one worthy of effigies and never-ending tales of lavishing fulfillment, as it is nothing but absolute aural perfection.
Originally written for and posted at Riff Magazine