Thursday, July 4, 2013

...Who Dies In Siberian Slush “We Have Been Dead Since Long Ago…” (Album Review)

For a long time the Russian doom scene was known to the community abroad exclusively thanks to the legendary and prematurely defunct traditional doom band Scald. This was a truly unique phenomena in Russia to the same degree creatively as commercially, because no other doom band of that period generated any significant buzz in foreign lands, even when they had something to show. Bands like Deceptive, Great Sorrow and Gods Tower delivered fresh and relevant sounds in their heyday, but I think it’s primarily absence of proper promotion that denied them serious recognition. Well, maybe the Byelorussian Gods Tower managed it to some degree. But what happened then? Then our scene started its transformation into an inhospitable death doom bog, populated by a multitude of bogey bands, stuck on an amateur level for far too long, relentlessly imitating current trends. Who remembers their names now, anyway? But it was during those turbid days when the doom death project Who Dies In Siberian Slush was begotten, who’ll this year observe its tenth anniversary…

Not long after crossing the ten year boundary, just before the New Year, Solitude Productions published the sophomore LP release of Who Dies In Siberian Slush, “We Have Been Dead Since Long Ago”. Out of the six songs featured on the album, two were already known to those familiar with the band’s last year’s split with Ego Depths, “Four Fragments of Fading Life”, namely “Refinement of the Mould” and “Spring”. The former is a solid piece of excruciating, extremely negative, dismally slow, close-to-textbook funeral, but still death doom. “Spring” features composition that’s closer to the funerary genre, but it’s the gradual rhythm shift of the melody and good mid-tempo riffing, culminating with a solo in the first half of the song that create a mood that makes listening through the whole eight minutes easier – the diversity definitely helps. 

As for new stuff, “The Day Of Marvin Heemeyer” is the first new song you’ll hear on this release. This six minute track stands out by featuring speech samples in English, but even more so for the artist’s evident desire to push this song to the edge of almost being straightforward old-school aggressive death metal. It is a curious and atypical move, but you have to deal with your inner demons, and in the case of WDISS this is expressed in following their own traditions: “In A Jar” is a fine example of the familiar dry and maximally slow death doom with heavy growls featured on their first LP. That Chekhov’s gun the band hanged on the “wall” of the first album, “Bitterness of The Years That Are Lost” has finally been shot – in part, the plot is fueled by alcohol dependency, close enough to the image of the bread-covered glass, traditional for Russian funeral wakes, featured on the cover of the band’s debut. “Funeral March №14” is a heavy instrumental rendition of a death march by Vakhoutinsky. That solemn march hardly caresses your hearing, the guitar parts truly ooze coldness and put a weight on your heart. 

The final composition “Of Immortality” is an interpretation of a poem of Arseniy Tarkovsky, “Life, Life”. Conceptually, a very fitting continuation of the tradition established by “Zaveschyanie Gumilyova”; musically, dry and moderately melodic music, just as we would expect from the band. When musicians use not only their own ideas in their music, but also the experience of artists from other ambits of art, I cannot help but feel happy for them, so I see the references to Vakhoutinsky and Tarkovsky in an exclusively positive light, as those are elements that some contemporary bands are devoid of. Using the legacy of the past from time to time shouldn’t be something to fear.

…Since the beginning of the first doom wave quite some time has passed, the death doom trend lost momentum and mostly only memories remained of the bands that carried its banner. Sometimes, they would be brought up on forum discussions or even could deign us with odd releases, which, it would seem, weren’t that interesting even to their makers. But still, at times some activity would be seen: Revelations of Rain could resurface, Roman “Boss” could gather a couple of bands for a concert Wings Of Doom, or even new bands could arise with debuts, even if the albums wouldn’t be popular. In our time, other trends are favored, good or bad. On the Russian doom death scene, Who Dies In Siberian Slush look like a guarantor of stability and known quality. 

To be frank, even though I admit the technical and compositional pros of their new album, it is still difficult for me to connect with it on an emotional level. Still, on “We Have Been Dead Since Long Ago” the band gives, in my opinion, a very good example to other musicians: there is room for growth and a goal ahead, and with some effort and patience it all can bloom into interesting new material, that will be fresh and recognizable against the background of a multitude of current releases. “Bad guys’ sorrow” – that’s how the band defines the concept behind their album. Sounds convincing enough, but I have to add that those bad guys really did a damned good job.

words by Aleksei Evdokimov

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