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A varied and cohesive whole - 84%

The_Evil_Hat, May 24th, 2009

Four Burials is a split between Otesanek, Loss, Orthodox and Mournful Congregation. Of those I know two, and had been advised to check out the third. Besides, the name Four Burials, and the picture of the four coffins, while probably not all that original, was just damn appealing.

Otesanek are the first to step up. I’d never heard of them before, and so I was probably the most curious to see if they would be any good. The music is, according to metal archives, slude metal/drone doom. My first thought was that this description sounded quite a bit like funeral doom, and I was pretty much right. The whole thing consists of extremely slow riffs, with simplistic drumming behind them, and with a mixture of growls and mid-level shrieks.

Every once in a while a higher riff comes in to offer some contrast, and is quite effective. The bits of high feedback and stray notes toward the end, played by one guitar while the other plays a melodic riff, are probably the only faults, as they simply seem out of place. As it continues the higher, more melodic portions become more and more prevalent, until they’re all that’s left. The acoustic outro is quite effective, as well. The whole thing has a very heavy feel, and serves as a good introduction to the split, even if it’s by far the most straightforward track present.

Loss are best known for their Life Without Hope…Death Without Reason demo, which has recently become fairly controversial, and also forms my only previous exposure to the band. Their contribution is the second longest of the tracks at fourteen minutes, and is entitled (To Pass Away) Death March Toward My Ruin. It starts with an incredibly overlong intro, which is a variety of out of place guitar noodling (eventually replaced by a clean intro of sorts), effective, building drumming, and the endless repetition of the words, “I become death, death is the seed from which I grow.” It’s somewhat effective, despite the obnoxious guitars, but simply goes on for far longer than it should. The clean guitars are immeasurably better than what they replace, and shortly after they come in the track gets going.

Loss take traditional funeral doom leads, and instead of using them as a contrasting element, use them as the cornerstone of their music. The first portion after the intro consists of clean guitars and somber drumming, and is quite effective. The transition to distorted, funeral doom is quite well done, and the whole thing maintains its atmosphere perfectly. The guitars alternate between playing high, single note leads, and occasional low power chords that are satisfactorily heavy. The bass is wholly absent, which is a shame because it seems like it could have been quite useful in enforcing the low end while the guitars flit about up top. The drumming is generally fairly simple, but is well played and keeps everything moving forward. The vocals are low death growls, and are very well done, especially when going under the leads, which they generally do.

The track is quite long, but doesn’t grow old due to the great, and constantly shifting, leads. They swiftly become more active, until at around eight minutes they play a depressing solo of sorts, and then stop for a few bars, before returning clean, until once again throwing back on the distortion. This variety continues throughout the track, and the mood is never compromised. The outro, in which the intro’s litany is repeated once, is somewhat anticlimactic and abrupt, but not a showstopper. Despite a very overlong intro, I’d say this one of the band’s best works.

Orthodox are a band that has been recommended to me quite a few times. They’ve been described to me as doom metal, with bits of jazz and ambient thrown in, and their contribution was what I was most looking forward to on this release. The track starts with a lone man singing, until an acoustic guitar and drums come in and take over. Everything is extremely slow and relaxed, and when the vocals come in again it is deliciously effective at setting the mood.

Things continue in this fashion for quite some time, but the feeling established by this is so well constructed that it doesn’t matter in the slightest. When it does change, it’s only to a slightly more lead-esque acoustic riff, and marginally more active drumming. At around nine minutes the track seems to end, before returning with a more vocally active portion, which is still instrumentally composed of acoustics and laid back drums.

The entire track continues along these lines. It’s immensely interesting, but for the longest time I could never get the thought out of my head that it was more like an interlude type song. Then, eventually, I woke up and realized that it WAS. This is designed for the flow of Four Burials, and it isn’t just some random single thrown in the middle. That isn’t to say that it isn’t a fantastic piece of music, though, it’s just not doom. It convinced me, without a doubt, to purchase one of Orthodox’s albums, even while still not knowing what their doomier parts sounded like.

Mournful Congregation are a band that I’ve always enjoyed, yet without every listening to all that much of their music. They’re in equal measure beautiful, somber and mournful. Their contribution here, Left Unspoken, starts off with a lead guitar riff that is slowly supported by building drums. The vocals come in next. They’re growls, but are far higher and warmer than Loss’s. The whole song has an incredibly warm, inviting feel to it, in fact. The music is depressing, but in a way that makes you crave more of it. More like a wonderful world fading away, than a twisted world reigning, kind of depression, if you know what I mean. The following riffs have clean vocals buried far behind them, and conjure up images of a fantastic, rich land, buried behind a thin but unbreakable veil that we will never get around. The clean vocals soon come out in the forefront as a delicate, ethereal choir.

There aren’t any particularly heavy riffs to be found here, the guitars are almost always playing slow, melodic leads, but crushing portions aren’t needed. The luscious atmosphere presented on this track is more than enough to enthrall any potential fan. The track is minimalist in the extreme, but the imagery created by the music is powerful enough that this couldn’t matter less. This track convinced me beyond a doubt that I need to listen to the band’s other works with far more regularity.

This split is composed of four quite different doom bands, ranging from the sensitively melodic, to the beautiful, to the depressed, and to the crushing. There is more than enough variety on this to keep you interested, and the split flows very well as a whole, as opposed to being merely as a collection of singles like some others which I could name.