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Today is a grim and rainy day, my head is warped with unease due to all the uncertainty that is life and nothing that I do seems to be good enough...time to pop up the cd, put it spinning, and lose myself in the vastness of these seven doom compositions.
I've already reviewed POG's compilation prior so now it's time to get into their full-length albums, starting with Renounce. It seems like it was yesterday that I got my ears on this band, but it has been four years since that moment. The first time I ever heard of the band was at an underground festival, Hard Metal Fest, or more commonly known as Mangualde Metal Fest, which is located more to the northern interior of the country. At the time, I went to see Malevolent Creation + Rotten Sound + Rotting Christ, so it came as a big surprise to arrive there and see a band playing really...slow?! Being four o'clock in the afternoon wasn't kind for the band, nor was the lack of a proper audience, but the name got stuck with me as I really thought them to be an interesting entity. Funny thing was that I actually had a second chance to see them play live, because a couple of months later I went on to see Katatonia with POG opening for them. Now that was more of a show with their amazing soundscapes resonating through and old theatre's walls. It was also at that point that I got completely glued to "Becoming Light", but we'll get to that in a bit.
Renounce is the debut album by POG and it's safe to say that they couldn't have done it any better, layering song after song of perfectly imbued UK doom that feeds highly on the early nineties' death/doom scene, but still possessing an atmospheric presence that's very unusual of such bands. The pace is calm and with an opener called "Motionless", you know you're in for a feast of slow and pungent songs which aren't easy to digest but are still worth the effort. The first track is a really good opener, introducing you closely to the great amount of reverb drenched atmosphere the band uses, but still giving you enough of that crushing feeling that you're pursuing on a day like this. But then the aforementioned "Becoming Light" enters the stage and your neck joins your conscious mind on a voyage through a seemingly endless riff that echoes on and on for near eternity. This is clearly the first high point on the band's career and this song alone has provided for a huge fan base for the last five years. Describing this song is futile as you should just go on and listen to it. It's the song that perfectly defines POG's sound and it's that amazing!
But the album doesn't stick to a good opener followed by a marvellous anthem, no sir. When you think that they couldn't write another great song after that one you get sucked into the black void of "Fragments" with its distorted echoing guitar and bombastic drumming which possesses an amazing snare sound as if it was hitting directly into your soul. And that break to the next riff just brings images of old Paradise Lost, or should I say Lost Paradise? The intertwining of loud and soft sections is greatly done and this proves to be one of the more devastating tracks in the whole album. But still that clean riff is so beautiful that it makes your wander off into the middle of a circle of good and bad, pretty and ugly, anger and absolution. By this point in time you've already been sucked into the dark passages of this claustrophobic alley and you begin to look at the ladder for what it really represents, a way out but one that you have to cross for yourself. Salvation is at hand but you have to be able to catch it and make an effort to find it. The task seems easier now with "Window" providing for the perfect analogy to your escapade, being a more relaxed and beautiful route to just go on and take that leap of faith as you want to grab the ladder. You reach for it now feeling confident and laugh at the world as you begin to escape.
But if you thought you'd be out this easy then you couldn't be more wrong as the ladder still stretches for over 28 more minutes and the clocking of that time is as suffocating as it is crushing. It's a one way trip always climbing more and more and never letting go, or else you'll be consumed in the nothingness below. Songs like "Falkling" and "Crawl" make it seem like an even more daunting task because the whole world seems to crumble around you as you make your run upwards in search of the sun that's hidden beyond all the grey smoke. One thing that I haven't mentioned yet are the vocals provided by Hugo. They're pretty good and is rotten snare is just terrifying especially during the repetition of the choruses, but he can also deliver some beautiful clean passages and even spoken word segments, sometimes resembling Aaron Stainthorpe's much revered wording. It's this balance of all things dark and doomy and the whole beauty that lives alongside it that makes their music so great and keeps it interesting for over an hour long album. It's also this that makes me come back countless times to their albums, the fact that no matter how low you can feel there's always a ray of sunshine to get you moving on to the full-fledged bright star.
The sun is already caressing your face, mildly warming your soul as the last steep pieces of the ladder get beaten off by your resilience, but there's still one last obstacle in the way in the form of "Burden". What a fitting name for the last chapter before the final release...The song brings to you the feel of an imperial march, as if it was announcing the impending arrival at your destination. This is the last step on the ladder and you keep pushing forward and forward until you finally reach your destination. The sun is at hand, salvation is yours for the taking and so the spirit carries on living another day.
This is a great album and the stepping stone on a short career that's proving to be one the more accomplished and successful any band from this country has ever had. Few bands have emerged like POG from the underground into the bright daylight and survived to tell the tale. This band however has released a very solid first effort and went even forwarder to a greater height with their next work, showing the world that they're here to stay!
Have I already begun to unveil the Process of Erosion? I might have, but that's really another chapter of our voyage through the Portuguese tales of doom and sorrow. Maybe this next one is close as I now feel a sudden urge to find out what's beyond the top of that ladder. Is there a world beyond this great effort, or is it just this?
I'll provide that answer really soon. Stay tuned.
This is one hell of a Doom/Death masterpiece, and nothing less. Taking a slightly "doomier" approach than the previous two demos (the demos have little hints of Black/Death), "Renounce" is one hell of a debut! It's very good, because it might give them some international recognition, but it also sets the level very high, and it's hard to match this, trust me, I'm talking about Swallow the Sun level here (with a clean voal part to boot). Anyway, I truly believe that they can surpass themselves.
This album has a fixed concept: slow, atmospheric parts where Hugo sings normally, clean vocal style, with a very low and sad voice. Then, when the drums kick it up, he lashes out one of the most amazing gutturals I've ever heard (and I've seen them live... it's even better than in the album), so, vocally, you can travel from utter sadness to the most anger-filled growl in a beat, almost literally speaking.
Instrumentally-wise, the guitars and bass have a great atmospheric presence, and when the said moments come, pure evil and, well, doom pour out from their fingers. The drums set some nice beats, that can, and WILL, get you headbanging easily (I know I did). Lyrically, it's all very melancholic and the ideia of renouncing feelings or actions comes up a lot. Guess that was where the album got it's name!
I won't mention any songs separately, because this is one of those albums that MUST be heard from tip to bottom. It gets the 100% beacuse for a debut, it's as good as they get...