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Friday, March 25, 2016

Review: Whelm - A Gaze Blank And Pitiless As The Sun

‘We are with you or against you’, a line from the song Perpetual Blindness, probably fits well as a description of how people will like this album...or not. (I’m imagining parents, neighbours...)

A Gaze Blank and Pitiless as the Sun is a great, heavy, depressive album in a intense doom/sludge style.

In 54 minutes this Danish band takes us down in utter darkness. The album is quite constant in its brutal, yet atmospherical sound, though now and again there are some differences that wake you up from a depressive slumber.

The first two minutes of the album are formed by the only Norwegian (interesting for a Danish band though!) song on the album: Tann Døkka Jørð. It is a dream start of an album. Both clean and growling vocals merge with heavy guitar, but also with a progressive sound. The introduction flows into the second song, The Brazing Bull. In my head the song is marked as ‘The Raging Bull’, because of the overwhelming power of the song. The clean vocals step aside, only to show up again in the last part of the album.
Basically this second song, together with the two songs coming after (From the Trenches of Perception and Perpetual Blindness) form one blanket of music with pained vocals, with no particular change in style, though Perpetual Blindness gives us some short interludes of ‘clean’ electrical guitar sounds. In no way the music is boring, it is just not varying very much.
Delphine la Laurie does give us a nice change, starting with Spanish musical influences. Due to the length of the song, the band can really expand the structure of the song and take time for the build-up, the breaks, and atmospheric pieces. In my opinion this is one of the strongest songs on the album.

Short interlude A Mark of Woe gives an insight in the experiments the band like to take. It fits the atmosphere in a sort of creepy way, yet is in no way a standard ‘ghost house tune’.
The last two songs, spin out the typical doom/sludge sound, in a nice diverse way. Final song Event horizon suddenly brings back the clean vocals, which need some getting used to again. It does fit well at the start of the song though, I was just not used to them anymore. At the end of the song the clean vocals work a bit odd, as if they were forced in, yet eventually it works out well.
All in all this is a great doom/sludge album with progressive elements. The vocals are hauntingly pained, the music is solid, though sometimes it can sound a bit the same. Enough songs though with lengthy and varied musical themes. I am with them!

Written by Martijn Bakker

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