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The Sombre - Shapeless Misery Award winner

The Sombre
Shapeless Misery
by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 01 November 2020, 2:26 AM

THE SOMBRE is a one man death/doom band from Maurice de Jong, a Suriname musician who now resides in the Netherlands. Up until now I have not been very familiar with this man's discography, which is as wide and deep as an ocean. Although I've ran across the names of several of his projects (including GNAW THEIR TONGUES), THE SOMBRE's second full length, "Shapeless Misery," is the first music of his I have actually heard.
I'm absolutely stunned by his apparent musical genius. "Shapeless Misery" is an ode to all the great things about 90s doom and it certainly recaptures that magic while paving its own way. There is a certain rawness to the album that a lot of doom bands don’t use because they tend to focus on misery and the atmosphere that creates.  There isn’t anything wrong with that at all but it is nice when a doom metal album can be heavy as the falling sky, searing as the flames of hell, and still include the misery we have all come to love about the genre.

Shapeless Misery,” contains a very full sound in its six track, thirty-five minute run time.  I sometimes run across one man bands that, well, sound like a one man band.  But this?  Had I not done my research before writing, I would have never guessed it was just one guy.  I’m not just saying that because of the album’s all encompassing sound.  It is the passion Maurice alone brings to the album; some bands it takes all the members putting in their ideas to pull off something both they and their fans well enjoy.  But he clearly loves the idea of putting together this style of doom and I can hear the love that ironically holds together all this woe.

The opening track, “A Terrible Silence From Above,” begins the album off with melody infused riffs that celebrate the darkness of old and the Gothic style that fits so well with doom. Some of the riffs on this song, and the album as a whole, are near black metal in their approach, adding in another layer of darkness.  I love how the riffs and drums double down on intensity at the same time to create this mountainous sound that seems insurmountable as it fills up my ears.  The song’s ending is violins and melodic guitar cutting through the density that came before, pulling the starkness out of my ears for a clean wash away like the tides pulling back from the ocean.

My Betrayal As A Knife,” sets a more harrowing tone in large part to the use of violin that rests just behind the riffs for a subtle approach of changing the song’s mood.  The drums, which prove themselves to be very atmospheric, continue to compliment the riffs and keep the danger from the song’s beginning afloat.  The middle portion of the song has a certain realization to it, spoken about by the rising and ethereal keys that hang above it all as the mind plays catch up to a changing scenario.  The last couple of minutes are classic sad boy doom, more than enough down trodden misery to make even the happiest person finally understand the good times are few and far between.

The title track is surprisingly rousing in places with clever placement of violins adding to the sullen excitement.  The bass is a standout among it all, creating a constant tone that can go from crushing to melodic as needed but always provides a hearty foundation.  It was at the 2:43 mark of this album that I realized how special it was going to be.  This clean passage is goddamn beautiful, a white but cold light that promises to shed enough brightness to not save us but to show us that impending doom we all must face.

Tears and Dismay,” opens very different from the previous tracks.  It forgoes crushing riffs and violins for more clean instrumentation, layered keys, and sleepy bass.  This sequence does instead have a sort of “dreamy” vibe to it but quickly awakes to endless nightmares.  This is song is one of my favorites on the album because, even more so than the others, it really nails down that mixture between bitter melancholy and crushing weight.

The Golden Shroud,” begins life has a blanket of bitter sweet atmosphere and bass that rolls just underneath the surface to push it all forward.  The melodies and harmonies change, twist and and turn throughout the first few minutes of the track before coming to a dead stop for more stunning clean passages, this one being a bit more far away in tone and ambient.  The rest of the song avoids the using of thick riffs, instead relying on the notes that were set in motion in the song’s beginning but the deep, deep death growls keep it firmly on the dark side.

The final track, “An Untameable Desire,” ends the album perfectly because it contains all the elements that made the journey up to this point so great.  The guitars, keys, and violins really work together strongly in this song with none of the different instruments taking away the importance of the others but instead just putting a focus on everything that is going on. It is very late in the year but doom metal continues to churn out some stellar albums and THE SOMBRE’s “Shapeless Misery,” brings in a late in the year game changer that will see me and many other writes having to rethink the best doom albums of 2020.  Seriously, if you’re a fan of the hey day of doom or looking for something that hits the spot on both heaviness and sorrow, then this album needs to be in your collection now.

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

4 Star Rating

1. A Terrible Silence From Above
2. My Betrayal As A Knife
3. Shapeless Misery
4. Tears and Dismay
5. The Golden Shroud
6. An Untameable Desire
M. de Jong - Everything
Record Label: Brucia Records


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Edited 28 May 2023

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