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Going Out With A Whimper - 100%

TheParadox, June 29th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2019, Digital, Hypnotic Dirge Records

This release by None is genuinely my favourite black metal album of all time. I definitely prefer the moody stuff over the tremolo picking, blastbeat... er... blasting (?) style of the perhaps more "classic" second-wave / second-wave inspired bands, although I like many of them as well. And oh boy, let me tell you, "Damp Chill Of Life" is moody as fuck. Completely dark and bleak. And, above all else, it's sad. And while sadness as a concept is pretty common in black metal in general (especially, of course, when looking at DSBM in particular), None have a way of evoking a sense of complete and utter despair. And it's not a scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs despair, its a huddle-in-a-corner-and-die-alone despair.

That's probably the most outstanding thing about this album. Yes, of course, you do have your screaming and yelling (and crying), but none of it evokes a sense of anger or of any confrontational feelings at all; it feels like complete surrender. There's no sense of that one last hurrah telling the world to go fuck itself. It just feels like you're in the mind of someone completely done even trying to put up a fight, just slogging painfully through life, waiting for it to end, almost completely passively. The guitars have this super thick tone to them, which really helps with the atmosphere. Other times, the album slows down ("Fade", "I Yearn To Feel") and hits you with really emotional melodies instead. An other black metal act that comes more-or-less close to evoking the same sentiments to this is Deadlife, but even his songs seem to have infinitely more life to them than None's tracks. I really, really, don't know how they managed to make a fantastic emotional masterpiece like this feel so lifeless, in the best possible way, but they did it.

On top of that, of course, the music itself is really good. They perfectly execute the above-mentioned mood of complete surrender, but do so in an incredibly pleasing way as well. I find that black metal often kind of gets up its own ass and fucks up a well executed mood by having songs go on forever without change. Again, we can look to Deadlife for comparison's sake; "A Moment Of Silence" has great atmosphere, but goes on for 17 god damn minutes with little to no changes in the music. "Damp Chill Of Life" does not have this issue in the slightest. The ups and downs allow for the music to remain compelling the whole way through. From the buzzing riffs of the title track, to the fading piano outro of "A Chance I'd Never Have" and everything in between, "Damp Chill Of Life" offers only the highest quality depression in musical form.

In conclusion, "Damp Chill Of Life" is, in my opinion, a perfectly crafted black metal masterpiece that focuses purely on making you feel the emotions of someone completely done with life, and who has nothing left to give, ready to go out with a whimper. I cannot wait for their 2021 effort, considering that they've only gotten better with each release. Here's hoping they manage to continue that trend!

Essence envisioned under glass. - 65%

GrizzlyButts, June 8th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, Digital, Hypnotic Dirge Records

Too often popular music treats depression as if it were a strike of lightning, or an extra-sensorial event, entirely separate from whatever normative state unaffected folks feign on a daily basis. The bend of a string, a weeping vocal affect, or a descent into downtempo swooning offer a simplified and fetishistic treatment of sorrow that is altogether inhumane in its core assumption. As if a leaking anesthetic gas tamed by an open window the quiet hysteria of depression might creep in expected waves but its slow numbness is not a light switched on. Just as one might mistake lust for love their entire life so too do countless people confuse self-pity and/or empathetic reaction for a true physical and chemical depressed state. It is a land of shuttered sight, intoxicating obsessions, and such profound avoidance that so many self-pitying fools might count themselves lucky to be only a small percentage of the way there. As the ice melts and refreezes in the stable cycle of collapse and rebuild within the mind hopelessness will inevitably become anhedonia, a depth powerful enough that a few rounds of reasoning or cognitive behavioral changes couldn’t hope to ascend. So many turn to drug, drink, and self-harm regardless though, the normalizing catharsis of music is impossible for the anhedonist, the incurable empath, or the pitiable to resist. Black metal in particular has a wild history of irresponsible and absurdist reactions to mental illness, partially because of weirdly ‘macho’ northern European attitudes in the 1990’s, yet the path beyond the mid 2000’s is smoothed thanks to well-tapped marketability. Thus that catharsis continues to be sold as if natural medicine to relief-seekers and the few that distribute it freely but responsibly as considered art deserve some credit for not becoming entirely manipulative or exploitative. Count Portland, Oregon duo None among the few who’d truly represent the slow and ominous easing of depression into the expectant vessel’s already aching state without prying the listeners pockets free of any loose cash with a crowbar made of tropes and talentless obscuration.

It might be their chosen name or the cold and distant atmospheric values of their collaboration thus far but it seems appropriate that None are an entirely anonymous project devoid of any meaningful extraneous collaboration. Each record features a panoramic photograph, perhaps from the various elevated lakes surrounding the Mt. Hood area based upon the large sedimentary rocks in each, anonymously taken. The music is likewise drafted as something familiar elevated to something more poignant that it probably should be. The generations beyond Hypothermia and Xasthur in ColdWorld and Woods of Desolation would inform a style well-worn but worn well upon the arms of None. ‘Damp Chill of Life’ comes notably with the warmth of Burzum-esque synths and watery production values rescinded in favor of a gravel-stuffed wound of a guitar tone and thinner choice of synth movements. Whereas the previous album was a walk through the snow that’d endanger hypothermic death for the sake of a beautiful view, ‘Damp Chill of Life’ accepts that isolated beauty as a curse and mourns the death of the self in its own narrative consciousness. None are no less contemplative when they’ve cut loose the tendons that’d keep pure despondency at bay, but the feeling here in 2019 is that a life on the edge is taking a serious toll. The wailing lead guitars upon the crux of “It’s Painless to Let Go” break the realm of meditation and express as desperate action, a strike at numbed flesh meant to shatter the blurred-dark tunnel vision of ones own enfeebling self-obsession. The mirror shatters, the psyche broken.

Downtempo depressive post-rock drum patterns, meditative neofolk guitar strumming, accompaniment from piano and acoustic guitar alike all defy the dry and amateurish staples of depressive black metal yet at no point is ‘Damp Chill of Life’ warmed enough to thaw of its atmospheric black metal gnarl. There is a comforting stasis in each composition as they largely soldier on through predictably paced funereal strolls guided by whispers, rasps, and the occasional broken howl (see: “A Chance I’d Never Have”). It won’t satisfy the masochist, those seeking self-harm might relish in certain moments but None have crafted a slow climb rather than a drowning lilt. The full listen is captivating and becomes increasingly final as it reaches the last track but the arc is mere anesthesia, a disaffection that is almost too angelic to feel truly demolished by. Without punishment as part of the listen it’ll feel remarkably repeatable as an experience and I found I could spin the record 2-3 times in a row and still be nowhere near a point of exhaustion. The appeal might have to come from the soft, plodding and lushly balanced raking of the self that it provides as there will me a minimum amount of blood incurred in whatever suffering ‘Damp Chill of Life’ creates.

I can only approach a record of this genre as a dabbler, one who’d avoid the nuance of some of the sub-genres it caresses for the most impactful releases. As a fellow who truly believes he understands the intent and feeling of what None create, I would suggest the greatest strength of this third full-length is its emotionally distant affect. It is not a heart-yanking fall from a high place but a gently numbing erosion that begs to be re-assessed over and over again. That ‘Damp Chill of Life’, the numbed distal regions of the mind and body, is exactly appropriate for the piece and as a description of the intended feeling. Absurd as such linear thought might appear on my end, the experience was satisfying as it was neatly symbolic for this listener. Moderately high recommendation. For preview the title track is perhaps one of their best compositions but I’d also suggest trying “It’s Painless to Let Go” to witness the most profound breaking point within.


A harrowing, heart-rending experience of loss and the waste of life - 85%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, May 28th, 2019

There are atmospheric depressive black metal bands and then there is the band None whose two members seem to want to obliterate everything individual and distinct about themselves - even their names - except their particular brand of atmospheric depressive black metal which is bleaker than bleak and more hopeless than hopelessness. The duo's music practically crawls with despair and desolation. Whirring, grinding tremolo guitars, crushing any life and vitality out of their sound, are matched in resignation by mournful, pained piano and sarcastic clear-toned electric guitars leering at those humans who survive rather than live and thrive from one day to the next. Seven tracks feature on "Damp Chill of Life" and in the order they appear, the track titles describe a narrative starting with the last moments of one's meaningless existence and from there letting go through suicide perhaps and experiencing the last few precious seconds of life as it ebbs away, and with it the promise of an alternative way of being and living.

The title track is a strong if slow-moving starter with guitars bleeding their life away through harsh noisy tremolo textures and the limp percussion beating out a monotonous and listless beat. The vocals are strained and croaky as if already on the verge of death. Track 2 "Cease" builds on its straightforward predecessor with a slow but emotionally intense, almost heart-breaking mix of plaintive piano melody, darkening atmosphere, chainsaw guitar and lumpen drumming. The saddest parts of the track are the purely ambient sections where piano tones and echoes plonk like isolated drops of water in the darkness. "You Did a Good Thing" is an elegiac instrumental piece, restrained and dignified in its sorrow for the most part aside from the angry spoken-word recording in the background.

The final three tracks are at once the angriest and most heart-rending songs, as though raging at the loss of a life and the waste that this loss represents, mourning that loss as well and missing the connection with a human being now gone. Raw depressive metal mixes with solo piano melodies, a dark-to-doomy atmosphere and a bluesy, almost country-western guitar style to produce a highly personal and contemplative style of instrumental music. Anger, frustration, defiance and the terror of being alone in an uncaring universe rise up in the music as it wends its way towards acceptance of things and events that cannot be changed.

While None don't exactly set the atmospheric depressive BM world on fire with elements it hasn't seen or heard before, they deliver a recording of the most harrowing pain and utterly wrenching emotion. The terror of death and loss, of the utmost loneliness and alienation, is deep and wounding. After the music ends, the intense emotions, the deep sense of loss, the terror and the loneliness of existence stay with you for a long, long time afterwards. That's a really amazing achievement.