The s/t debut from Oregon's Dysperium is one of those albums that I can play the 'marry, screw or kill' game with, because it incorporates such an array of varied components with regards to song quality. The glistening acoustics which pervade a large percent of the albums near 50 minute length are beautiful, crisp and completely capable of drawing a listener into a world of autumn reverie, gentle tides and crystalline, prophetic skies. The vocals are quite lustrous, delivered with painful grunts via the 'other' James Brown; this one a metal musician and not at all a soul dancer. When clean, they also feel fluid, especially above the folksy gleam of the guitars. On the other hand, this heavy/doom guitar riffs on the album are entirely too boring, samey sounding compositions that have been played a great many times and were not really interesting even when they appeared the first time. The chords move in predictable patterns that nullify the atmosphere and drag down what might have otherwise been a tranquil escape to an amateur affront.
The album is laid out in a sequence of 9 tracks, each of which is annotated with a Roman numeral in place of a song title. This is a rather annoying cliche by this date, in particular in the realm of black or doom metal where it has been done before, but assuming Dysperium itself is the s/t concept and this is to make a statement, drawing the listeners into this single procession rather than individual tracks of note, with individual identities. In a way, this actually bears the risk of crippling the listener's attention span before he spins one note of the album, since you might feel as if you're missing out on something by not listening in its entirety. Lyrically, the album follows a pattern of coherent, nihilistic imagery. Many of the individual lines do seem as if they had been snagged out of some random generator, but exclamations to 'Adorn embittered cloth' or 'the antithesis to martyrdom' do sometimes develop a ring to them.
Unfortunately, such overarching conceptual bleakness is lost upon Dysperium, because the music itself does not sound all that maddening or depressive. The clean guitars, synth tones and vocals are often as beautiful as a cool day in September, and they do little else but evoke majestic landscapes in the mind, where mountains and woodlands carry on through the season. This is more glorious than sad, even if some of that majesty conjures an occasional woe for history, but even in its best tracks like "I" and the slow, flowing river "VI", the guitar riffs are so plodding and common in their mute foundations that the areas in which the band excels are dampened in effect. Seriously, if you took track "VI" and just abandoned the electric guitars completely, you would have a mesmerizing panorama of wonder in which to lose oneself.
Not every song suffers completely from the riffing. The chunk and chugging of "V" enables a little mystique. The percussion and vocal slather of "IV" will turn your attention away from the adequate melodies, but they're not bad here. The bass playing is quite nice throughout, providing sluggish, sparse grooves beyond the majestic openness of the music's inner eye. All of the non-metal' tracks like the "Intro", "Outro" and "Interlude" are quite well done, folkish vistas like a Viking alternative to Dead Can Dance, and likewise the many points in the vocal tracks, where the chords drop out are quite nice. It's just the generic chugging and folk melodies that soil the experience for me, but that's a considerable amount of the time.
Both of the members, John Marshall and James Brown were once involved in the USBM band Typhus, which was less than memorable, so Dysperium must be a nice release. The style they explore here has a lot more potential for success, since a great number of metal fans enjoy the spacious sounds of glory and history. The various vocal elements work well. But there will be some changes necessary to really excel here. The music could be quite a lot heavier to match the lyrics, though I understand most folks don't give a hoot about lyrics (their loss). But in general, I just feel that stronger composition of the guitars would lend credence to the valleys and summits of sound the band might one day reign upon. I'd rather fuse with the whole package than just the sinkholes where the metal riffing did not dare to tread.
Verdict: Indifference [5.75/10] (marred as sodden dregs)