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Mmm Chilean doom. Where has this been? And why has it been so incredibly unnoticed? The Cult of Disease is sold by Procession as an EP, but at nearly 48 minutes in length it would have made a perfectly acceptable debut. Better than acceptable. A fucking great debut. This is already a lost classic, and it's only been out a year. That's how lost it is. The cover art is remarkably evocative of the music within: shades of dark, lavender-hued igneous rocks and a suggestion of heat and magma behind a blurred, winged beast. Striking, but you still have to pay attention to get the most from it.
Procession are blessed to have within their number possibly the most talented unheard of doom vocalist in the underground. Felipe Plaza Kutzbach has a regal yet husky voice. He brings a strong blend of sorrow and grandioseness to the proceedings, like some half-forgotten monarch watching as his kingdom shreds itself to pieces with economic and ethical corruption and decline. He is also responsible for the booming guitar riffs that flatten all in their path. The awesomely named 'Raven of Disease' finds his instrumentation reminiscent of Peter Vicar's work in Lord Vicar, with a harder tone and slightly reduced fuzz afforded by the mix on this track.
With only six songs Procession stay focused and don't let themselves get slack for a moment. Businesslike, they set themselves to creating half a dozen intense, disparate but thematically tied atmospheres. 'Like a Plague Upon the Earth' consists of grooved up battering ram riffs leading the song and spiked by pinch harmonics, which combined with the dramatic chorus constitute Procession's very own 'At the Gallows End.' The drums are worth mentioning at this juncture, with now ex-drummer Francisco Vera putting in a competent effort and adding plenty of crump to the proceedings.
'The Funeral of an Age' certainly feels like that; the entombing of a civilization, the grisly aftermath on a killing field where two great nations have decimated one another. Felipe's vocals pierce through the fug of feedback to relate the grim story of betrayal at the heart of this song - that, brilliantly, only glances at the subject of the title. It's extremely suggestive and a narrative triumph, ending with four minutes of tense, roiling guitars, harmonized chants from Felipe and a spoken word clip.
The album also pitches you into deeper realms of doom as it plays, the guitar tone getting fuzzier and the song concepts getting less friendly. As if they were friendly to start with! 'Down the River of Corpses' distinguishes itself for bluesy, almost lounge-like distorted solos over the stoned sway of the fuzz-drenched main riff, the guitars by now truly sounding Reverend-like. 'The Road to the Gravegarden' is my favourite here, for its slowly plodding main riff that I could happily listen to looping for a good five or six hours...days...and the truly chilling vocals. Felipe adopts a Sir Albert Witchfinder influence here, audibly striving to sing from deep within his stomach. But this is much more than Reverend Bizarre worship. The line "You'll be buried soon/ Don't be afraid" sounds malevolently, morbidly tender. Again an almost jazzy, wah-pedalled guitar solo starkly contrasting with the grim sound of the song but working magnificently. 'Incinerate' is a seemingly Kyuss-influenced doom trip, wake-and-bake guitars marrying pained vocalisations in a frighteningly good chalk and cheese moment.
The line-up of the band has shifted since this album's release, with a new bassist and drummer joining the fold, but as you can probably tell Felipe is largely driving the music with his well-researched but individualist style of playing and singing. I liked this as much as any doom metal that was out last year, not counting Heaven & Hell. Firmly in the genre of traditional doom, Procession sound classy, accomplished, mature, and they could stand toe to toe with any number of far more established bands. They can't release a full-length too soon.