Bosque/Senthil – Under The Capricorn Sky/Premeditation

When you first get into funeral doom, pretty much all funeral doom is good. Every new band seems awesome and brilliant or at the very least a tolerable listen. As the years wear on, though, you start to raise your standards more, and the average funeral doom like, say, Remembrance or Ahab doesn’t do much for you anymore. And then, after a little while longer, you start to feel a sort of animosity towards the genre itself, despite how many artists you still love in it, simply because there’s such a ridiculous volume of completely mediocre work out there.

Funeral doom is realllly fucking hard to screw up, and this isn’t about the technical requirement of zero. It’s because it’s easy to make a funeral doom song. If you’ve heard The Ethereal or Shape Of Despair or any number of other funeral doom artists you’ll know that the ingredients are simple ones that anyone can craft. It’s very easy to take a handful of big power chords, small, minimalist lead guitar, sparse drumming and whispery growls and make it into something that’s a pleasing listen. Remembrance is fun to listen to! It’s dramatic and emotional, even if it is so emotional that it’s pretty much a parody of itself. But at the same time, you begin demanding more from funeral doom than just a mere adherence to the basic traits of the genre. You start looking at bands like Thergothon and Skepticism and wondering why no one has been able to copy them correctly, and why everything just sort of sounds like a fifth generation Xerox of Tyranny or Wormphlegm.

So ‘Under The Capricorn Sky/Premeditation’ is a split between two funeral doom bands, one still quite obscure and the other with its own cult following. Bosque is a pretty unique Portuguese artist that few know of, while Senthil are the guys that did the demo ‘Crypticorifislit’ which everyone ended up hearing whether they wanted to or not. The former plays a bleak, desolate, weirdly transcendent variety of funeral doom, while the latter are pretty content with emulating the Wormphlegm or Funeralium style of EVOOOL torture doom. The two artists intersect only lightly; darkness, instrumental simplicity and sparseness, morbidity and some degree of depression, etc., but these are mostly just due to the fact that they are both funeral doom bands. When it comes to atmosphere and delivery, each band contributes a completely different and unique aesthetic.

Bosque’s ‘Under The Capricorn Sky’, divided into three tracks, begins the split. Bosque’s style of funeral doom is very unique and very good. Long stretches of bleak, desolate clean guitar is soaked in reverb for ambiance, alternating with portions of trudging, sludgy funeral doom. The images that this music conjures are stunningly varied, from bleak, grainy black and white video of graveyards to the slowest and darkest of funeral processions to the emptiest and grandest of cathedrals to, perhaps the most powerfully, the precise image of the artwork that graces this album’s cover. The music itself is just as varied, and the moods it describes: bittersweet longing, peace, tortured emotional agony, and complete resignation to the world all craft their own moments. Bosque isn’t just some of the most evocative funeral doom I’ve ever heard; it’s some of the most evocative music I’ve ever heard period, and every time I listen to this side it just gets better and better and more beautifully artistic.

Bosque sounds like death. Rather, Bosque sounds like the process of dying slowly yet peacefully. ‘Under The Capricorn Sky’ is the last thirty-eight delirious minutes of your life as you finally succumb to the ravages of time. Individual sections capture moments of life at the pace of a sunset. All aspects of death are covered, every emotion connected to it and every view of it, crafting one of the most multifaceted pieces of music in the history of the artform. Shimmering pools of digitally distorted guitar like cold water springs in empty caves periodically overflow, gently washing over vocals, either desperately screamed or gently sung cleanly and distantly, over incredibly sparse and slow drumming that sounds only composed of snare and bass drum. No actual bass appears to be present, making the compositions even more hauntingly minimal and brilliant.

Part one’s reverbed clean guitar sounds recorded in the tunnel of the cover art, and the rest of the music appears to be the long walk into that burst of light at the end. When the funeral doom commences, vocals burst into painful, desperate screams without hesitation, like some cry towards the heavens for more time, before subsuming into high, dramatic, heartache-fueled funeral doom leads before returning to clean guitar. Part two is perhaps the most traditional; periods of stained-glass funeral doom complete with haunting and distant clean vocals alternate with quiet, distorted ambiance, with rhythm guitar emptying into pure lead in the middle portion, before the two styles combine in the final section, almost discordantly, but harmonizing just enough for a weak species of beauty to be born. The final track, completing the cycle, begins with powerful, loud funeral doom, growing steadily weaker and more frail, before the journey into the light is completed with solitary electric lead guitar and incredibly quiet, subtle, and chill-inducing acoustic accompaniment. The final moments are of such complete peace and finality to be truly the recordings of death. Bosque draws the morbidity, pain and sadness of death and makes it bloom into something beautiful and, though not quite desirable, completely peaceful and tranquil. It’s music that shows death as nothing to be feared, but something to embrace when its time is upon you. ‘Under The Capricorn Sky’ is a masterpiece, pure and simple, and should be heard by any of those who love funeral doom… and life.

Senthil is, needless to say, a bit more straightforward. Infamous for the ‘Crypticorifislit’ (and later even more infamous for their ‘Septisemesis’ tape), Senthil’s aesthetic of complete musical and physical extremity have attracted more than their share of curious onlookers. Now, in my estimation, Senthil has possibly the best aesthetic in all of funeral doom. Everything they release looks awesome and extremely true. All the various parts are in place for Senthil to be one of the sickest, most depraved bands in the world. Come on, two out of three of their releases contains their blood on at least SOME copies. One of their members died in some unknown circumstance. The lyrics to ‘Crypticorifislit’ are supposedly based off a real life event, and the few snatches of lyrics that you can read on the ‘Septisemesis’ tape are similarly morbid and horrific in nature. The stage is set for Senthil to become the greatest Wormphlegm-style torture doom band in the history of the style. We’re just waiting for them to come on stage… waiting… waiting…

And it still hasn’t happened. Yeah, Senthil’s aesthetics and practices are extreme, but their music is pretty damned boring too. The style is less sparse than Bosque’s: the drums are a full kit, there’s more general activity. And it’s a step up from the demo: the riffs are firmer, more established, heavier than before. Of course, the vocals are just as intense and deranged as they were before. But the music is still really thin on ideas. ‘Premeditation’ is thirty-two minutes of music that could probably be compressed into ten or twelve without difficulty. It’s repetitive, and I like repetition, but what’s being repeated just isn’t that interesting. It’s not bad, just very uninteresting. Funeral doom is a pretty still genre in the first place, so if the music needs spicing up, it’s probably not best to do it with stretches of dark ambient, probably the only genre of music more static than funeral doom, but that’s what Senthil does here: long sections of funeral doom divided by a lengthy section of keyboard dark ambient and completed with lots and lots of instrumental waffling that doesn’t really go anywhere.

It is ‘extreme’ music, but it doesn’t seem to lead to much. I never get the impression that the band strangling themselves with chains really takes the music to some level that is unachievable without the extra chain strangling. I never get the feeling that Plague and Vomit are the incredibly awful and sinister people they portray themselves as in the music: I’m pretty sure they have day jobs, pay their bills and go to McDonald’s like everyone else. It’s weird because this seems to be a problem only really for me and a few other people: 99% of the people that listen to Senthil find it to be incredibly dark, disturbing and affecting music. I don’t. It’s just sort of boring Wormphlegm emulation with really, really cool layout design. That’s wrong; Senthil doesn’t really sound like Wormphlegm anymore. Senthil sounds like a really boring version of what Senthil should be. Don’t take it from me: you’ll probably find this stuff way more intense than I do. But it just doesn’t grab me like it supposedly should.

‘Under The Capricorn Sky/Premeditation’ is a Pale Horse Recordings release, and though there are few so far, they have universally awesome design and layout. The aesthetics of this are top notch. The music is pretty sweet too: Bosque is excellent and Senthil is sort of middling, but the first side alone makes this CD a must-buy for anyone who’s into funeral doom. If you consider ‘Premeditation’ as a sort of bonus song it gets significantly better. So, in short: get it for Bosque and see if Senthil’s up your alley. Pale Horse Recordings is a pretty awesome label and distro and deserves your support anyway. Plus, you’re getting about an hour of music total. It’s a win-win all around.

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~ by noktorn on August 13, 2007.

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