Mist Of The Maelstrom – Death Of The Sun

Mist Of The Maelstrom’s ‘Death Of The Sun’ is very hard to digest upon first listen. Part of it is just the pure volume of material to contend with: this album has over seventy minutes of music. Another part of it is that each one of those seventy minutes is absolutely monumental funeral doom that is some of the best I’ve ever heard. It’s not afraid to be completely unforgiving to the listener, but that’s not a mask for a lack of songwriting ability. It’s music by one man for one man, and if you’re along for the ride, it’s your own business. I love it.

The music here is a very even mixture of Thergothon and Skepticism, with a hint of The Ethereal and some folk as well. The best way to describe it is as Thergothon’s music played with Skepticism’s style of instrumentation. The melodies have that sort of minimalist grandiosity that Thergothon excelled in: very small and precise notes from highly distorted and flanged guitars riding on the updrafts of the other instruments. The actual playing, though, is all Skepticism: vast swaths of pounding toms and incredibly slow rock beats, but apart from the latter, a conspicuous absence of ‘normal’ percussion, and a similar use of keyboards and long stretches of slow, deliberate ambiance. Really, this is ambient music played as funeral doom: it has an even more ambient mindset than most funeral doom bands, and the music shows it. The most common mode of communication is through very long, almost droning sections of lone guitars playing riffs right out of ‘Stream From The Heavens’. Yes, the music is at the best of times very sparse, much like The Ethereal. The songs all wash into each other to form one massive composition, and the beginning and ending of individual tracks isn’t very relevant.

There is a haunting beauty to this. It reminds me a great deal of Skepticism’s ‘Stormcrowfleet’. When I listen to that album, one thing in particular strikes me: that is a complete absence of humanity. I envision realms beyond ours completely devoid of any animal life, and the sounds the band emits are more translations of nature, of weather, of the movements of the land and space itself more than any real ‘music’. Mist Of The Maelstrom is the same way: the music sounds as if it’s taking place on some desolate Greek isle, slowly drinking in the sunset over the blue-green waters. Everything moves so slowly, almost unbearably slowly, even for funeral doom, that the sounds start to lose meaning for themselves and only make sense in the context of the larger movements of the songs. It is a difficult listen. This is background music, but this is not meant to be an insult. You can focus in on the music and listen to it carefully, but I don’t think there’s anything there to hear in the very specifics of it: everything here is about the structure: the relation of the parts to the whole that is ‘Death Of The Sun’.

The individual tones have a richness about them that is hard to describe. The drums, possibly machine driven, are beautiful in every crack of snare or distant crash cymbal. The very thin, distorted guitars mostly play winding leads in the traditional funeral doom style, but generally avoid the massive chords of bands like Remembrance: their use is more subtle, centered around fragments of three note melodies, unlike the more developed works of bands like Tyranny. Vocals are a dull, rich-textured roar in The Ethereal’s style. Keys, like in Skepticism, form the body of the work, providing most of the bass sound and the most powerful of the melodies through settings of organ, choral, and other, more unique sounds. The naturalistic atmosphere of this is quite simply one of the most perfectly developed I’ve heard, and likely because it’s deliberately UNDER developed. This doesn’t feel engineered or forced at all.

This is raw music, even by funeral doom’s standards. This will not appeal to most people, nor is it intended to. It is simple, fragmented, and very unforgiving. But it is also beautiful and stirringly creative, and has a grandiosity worthy of the greatest of funeral doom artists. This is truly great music, and I only hope that Mist Of The Maelstrom gains the attention that it deserves. I’ve always thought that funeral doom should have gone in the direction of Thergothon and Skepticism instead of Remembrance or Esoteric; for those that agree with me, this is a release you should immediately acquire. Very nearly perfect, and likely to age well.

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~ by noktorn on September 17, 2007.

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