Monday, July 1, 2013

Estrangement - Belong Beneath [DEMO] (2013)

I've occasionally commented in the past on how funeral doom so often traipses too closely between the paradigms of crushing sadness and effortless ennui, and will readily admit that even some of my favorite 'pure' products in this medium can be tiresome when not in a proper mindset. Australians Estrangement have addressed this shortcoming by composing a cacophony of suffering cellos, sluggish droning distortion and haunted rasps that places a huge emphasis on the 'funeral' half of the equation, while letting the death/doom components serve as this raw, primordial landscape across which the more atmospheric swells ebb and flow with so much spirit-sapping drama. Belong Beneath is a three-track cassette demo, simply but nicely packaged, and though its brevity might rob us of getting a 'bigger picture' of the band's capabilities, it gives us something to be compelled towards. I was going to say 'excited', but, then, that's not exactly the point of music like this.

Two of these three tunes fill out the predictable 8+ minute duration used throughout the niche, but they do so with a lot of class. Spaced out, minimalistic, drudging chords set a backdrop for the heavy use of organs and strings, dry but throbbing bass notes, and there are even little hints of jazzy, progressive rock picking that took me by surprise in "Disentanglement (from sound and mind)". The drums are the sort of sparse, raw bedrock you might be accustomed to from similar bands, really splaying out and deconstructing your standard doom meter that every individual strike of a snare or tom is felt to its fullest, though you get a bit more of a tribal imperative in "Infinitesimal Spark" where the fills are busier. I suppose that, for the most part, that track creates more of a consistent doom metal vibe, but it too segues into some interesting keyboard whirls and a melancholic haze of harmony which brightens the din of the opening moments despite the torn throat howling along to them. The sandwiched "Interlude" is also interesting, because it's mournful fusion of funeral parlor lounge pianos and strings crashes along like a sepulchral vaudeville with occasional growls.

I will say that the demo, while not overpoweringly produced in terms of its guitar tones, vocals and drums, did not release me from its dirge-spell for the 20-ish minutes, and that's a testament to the creativity implied here. The riffs, as bare as they are structurally, are not repeated ad nauseum unto oblivion so that you become comfortable or tired, and even though the three tracks are largely streamlined instrumentally, sticking with a handful of sounds and interpreting them in a handful of Romantic, rotting ways, there was a sense of adventure and the unexpected here which is so often lacking in the form. The melodies and the chords aren't incredibly memorable unto themselves, but Belong Beneath certainly inspires curiosity as to what they might pull off on a lengthier debut album, which this sonic niche lends itself to. I just hope that the sense of exploration I felt listening through this will be further expanded upon, and the Australians won't shy away from delving even higher into the atmospheric envelope while maintaining those heartstring-snapping fundamental growls and crashing, Cyclopean chords that define its parent genre.

Verdict: Win [7.5/10]

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