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Descend into Despair - Opium Award winner

Descend into Despair
by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 04 July 2020, 4:05 AM

DESCEND INTO DESPAIR is a funeral doom metal band from Romania. They have been active since 2010; “Opium” is their third full length album.  They also have an EP and a demo under their belt. “Opium” has a line up of no less than seven members that took part in the recording.  I can definitely tell because this album sounds absolutely MASSIVE.  Any funeral doom worth its weight in gloom and despair will have depression and cavernous atmosphere but not many are outright huge in scope. The music across the three tracks that make up “Opium” is entrenched in darkness but has just as much light as well.  It could fill up a deep, unknown cave rather than fit into a claustrophobic crevice but the cracks are going to shine some light in as well.

According to the band themselves the concept of “Opium” is the dichotomy between light and darkness.  Musically speaking, I can’t think of how better this album could represent this idea.  There are many dark and light elements happening, not just separately, but at the same time.  In many ways, this album represents that age old struggle between the two forces. The ambient keyboards and spoken word vocals begin the album and its first track, “Ensh\[r]ine.”  The band has a gift for enveloping the listener, and that person’s entire thought process and attention, in engrossing layered atmospheres that seem like everything is coming at you from all sides.  Listening to this album with headphones on is truly a captivating experience.  For the first few minutes, there isn’t even any metal to be heard but the layered build up is never dull and sweaty anticipation leads to the lost of nerves as you can fell the tension of fear, anguish born out of personal rediscovery.  When the doom metal arrived, I was taken aback. The swirl of keys bring the tension to a high point around the 16:24 and they mix perfectly with the riffs, each of them bringing a different tone to the overall feel of the song.  And how about that melodic yet emotional solo?  I rarely hear such moving guitar in this genre, what a breath of fresh air!

So many funeral doom bands leave their growls buried in the mix but DESCEND INTO DESPAIR put them front and center and it does wonders for the heavier side of the music.  The riffs are simple but the tone is weighted with enough anti matter to make them as dark as possible.  I was really impressed by how melodic they can be as well, especially in the song’s much later half.  Funeral doom tends to lose sight of the forest because of all the trees but “Opium,” makes the basic tropes of the genre work for them in ways that leave other bands of this style in the dust. None of the three tracks sound anything alike, either.  Sure, they all have the same elements of course but they all take a different approach.  Quiet melodies open the second track, “Antumbra,” but grow in complexity as the seconds pass.  Soft but presentable drums highlight this moment that leads us into some very Gothic guitar. I often wonder why more of a Gothic tone isn’t used in funeral doom and this song only makes me want to hear more of it in the future.

Around the 8:30 mark, synths and keys totally change the direction of the song, taking the listener down a side path that looks across from the darkness.  This movement may seem melodic or even ambient in nature but its is a cold moment, a void unto itself that presents the same dangers it seems so far removed from. The next half of the song is a sort of miasma, sweltering form of devastating heaviness but it is more riff based than atmospheric, which is a smart play as it is sandwiched between the aforementioned movement and another melodic passage that shines a dim glow.

Dis\[re]member,” begins with soft clean note that drop like a light drizzle on a cold morning. Call me crazy but much of the several minutes of buildup from that drizzle morphs into a country twang.  Surprisingly enough, it works exceptionally well and the deep clean vocals really help bring it all to life.  Those cleans show up again at the tracks end and they are just as moving as earlier—very good idea to include them with the deep growls especially since it furthers shows the dark/light idea the band came up with.  The death growls are especially tortured and some the album’s more harrowing moments are presented in this track but also the album’s lighter moments as well.  “Dis\[re]member” is the most well rounded track on the album and serves as a showcase for all of its ideas.

All in all, DESCEND INTO DESPAIR’s “Opium,” is a refreshing take on the funeral doom genre and has carved an unique path with a style that is usually overly rigid at times.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Ensh\[r]ine
2. Antumbra
3. Dis\[re]member
Xander Coza – Vocals, Synthesizer (analogue), Guitars
Cosmin Farcau – Guitars
Florentin Popa – Vocals (clean, choir), Guitars (lap steel), Field recordings
Alex Costin – Bass
Luca Breaz – Drums, Vocals (Choir) (track 3)
Flaviu Rosca – Keyboards, Piano
Dragos C. - Guitars
Record Label: Funere Label


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