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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review: Descend Into Despair - Synaptic Veil


Descend Into Despair. When you give your band a name like this, you can rest assured people never ever have to ask what type of music you play. Whether the name indeed displays the musical path correctly remains to be seen of course, but in this case it definitely holds true. This Romania based band plays funeral doom and has been doing so since shortly after their formation in 2010. Starting out as a duo they went through an impressive series of personnel changes and growth, both size- and quality-wise, resulting in a septet of guys that form the modern day Descend Into Despair. They are, in no particular order, Xander (guitars, vocals), Florentin (keys), Cosmin (guitars), Luca (drums), Alex (bass), Flaviu (keys) and Dragoș (guitars). Since this band saw the first light of day, or rather dark of day, they have produced a steady stream of releases evolving from a demo (‘Descend Into Despair’), to an EP (‘Vanity Devotion’) and a more-than-full-length (‘The Bearer Of All Storms’, with 7 songs spanning over 90 minutes), showing progress with each new piece of work. Now, some three years after their latest release it’s time to unveil their latest creation, a full-length entitled ‘Synaptic Veil’. Though not quite the epic length as it predecessor it still clocks in just short of an hour, with songs thus averaging around 12 minutes.

Funeral doom usually is the musical equivalent of intense sadness, desolation and depression, where especially the slow, thick pace of the music is responsible for that impression. Descend Into Despair however has a slightly different, somewhat brighter approach, which expresses itself in a more ambient, more melancholic sound than usual. Or in their own words: ‘…a more stoic, almost blissful in a masochistic sense, realization of the freedom one can find in embracing pain’. The slow pace is there, but the heavy setting is not as prominent and it’s not everywhere as thick as you would or perhaps might expect. This is not meant as criticism, it’s simply determining a fact. I’d even go as far as saying it will be considered the opposite by many, making Descend Into Despair’s version of funeral doom more accessible and easier to consume, relatively speaking of course. Lyric-wise they stay perfectly in sync with expectations, emphasizing on the concept that reality never will nor can fully satisfy the demands of the mind.

As depressing as this thought might be, the music is composed in such a way that there’s always a shimmer of hope wandering around in the back of your head, setting a slightly brighter tone to it all. Opener ‘Damnatio Memoriae’ (The curse of memory) perfectly showcases the execution of these intentions, with a disturbing yet somehow also enlightening musical flow, proving the guys’ skills, surrounded by clean vocals as well as grunts and pained screams. Up next is ‘Alone With My Thoughts’. With just over seven minutes the runt of the litter time-wise, it’s still the heaviest track of this release, breathing more sorrow and pain than all other songs combined. Again the (double) vocals are an asset, this time adding an ominous component to the song’s already grim atmosphere. To compensate all this grief successor ‘Demise’ opens with a light, encouraging guitar with ditto vocals setting the tone for the entirety of the song. It has a couple more or less heavy passages, but due to the combination of light music, sweet clean vocals and the soothing choir of angels at the end the term funeral doom can only be applied very, very loosely on this song. The contrast between these two songs is gigantic, yet it feels perfectly natural.

In ‘Silence In Sable Acrotism’ the style changes once again. The guys return to their roots with this slow, heavy, lingering doom metal song that leads to a stretched soundscape ending the song. And then, just like that, there’s only one song left. The majestic ‘Tomorrow’ is the final song of the album and a worthy one at that. They took all the components that characterized the other songs and put them together in this epilogue. Heavy, doomy parts are intersected by sweet piano tunes which in turn transform back to the doomy tunes they arose from.

So all this being said it’s safe to conclude that with ‘Synaptic Veil’ Descend Into Despair has released a great album with quite a few surprising features music-wise. It hovers from mournful heaviness to hopeful ambience and vice versa, perfectly framing the sometimes angry, sometimes soothing and sometimes downright frightening vocals. Being relatively accessible compared to what many see as ‘true’ funeral doom metal, a statement I definitely do not support, a wide range of metal fans will find something to their likings on this album. Composition-, skill- and production-wise there’s really nothing to comment on, it’s a more than solid release.

Written by Henric van Essen

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