A magnificent carcass rots beneath the thawing wet of the Pacific Northwest today, pungent in its intensifying decayed musk. Its humours rise wafting as invisible poisonous fog through mushroom skirted pine and shrinking canopy. In flames our rainforest further rescinds invitation annually, drying of life and mercilessly liquefied by emergent bacterial lustration. Bubbling as if veins of molten gold slashed violently from long-grayed quartz the very blood of our land pools and then cakes under foot, evaporating with it memories of soggy boot and the sacred atmosphere that moss would patiently create. What fiery hell that obscene men perpetuate elsewhere sun-dries away the solace of a green hell natural to those born upon its marsh edges, now choked by ash and left to wander as dust atop short hills of dirt and skeletal crag. Decades of serious warning bled into pleas that’d land upon the deaf ear, the short-sighted eye unable to accept all-connection as new religion. So, we mourn as witness to the slow death of the Earth with coffins dragging us down into coughing wretches, masses of defeated and soon desiccated flesh. Here any hope of heritage and the spiritual self dies amongst the cinders of gentle giants, guided into eternal darkness by the empathetic dirges of Portland, Oregon extreme doom metal procession Maestus. The physical ache of dysthymia indicates throughout the whole of their darkly sympathetic and appropriately serious second full-length, ‘Deliquesce’.
Enraptured by the painfully motionless, self-distorting waves of despondent doom marches throughout, the weight of Maestus‘ sophomore full-length beyond their debut, ‘Voir Dire’ (2015), is an oppressive form of beauteous sickness slowly melting from the inside out. This grand, emotionally driven music expresses with distant presence a cohabitation between stylistic interests and regionally influenced techniques but no part of Maestus‘ second effort rests in their relatively amateurish past. The project would begin as a separate personal onus aimed at a blend of atmospheric black metal and melodic extreme doom metal beyond the scope of Eugene born musician Stephen Parker who’d been an original member of now defunct black/death group Arkhum as well as his own solo atmospheric black metal project The Will of a Million. Maestus was likewise largely a ‘solo’ side project though it’d originally feature σοφος of Eugene black metal act Σοφος on keyboards. By 2016 Arkhum folded, σοφος had left, and Parker would join John Haughm and Trevor Matthews (ex-Infernus, ex-Uada) in the celebrated post-Agalloch group Pillorian. There is no doubt Parker was a fine musician at that point but to see the growth evident in the three years leading up to ‘Deliquesce’ is to witness an evolutionary leap of the musical mind. Oddly enough the nature of the fates would align the release of this latest Maestus record with the awkward dissolution of Pillorian, a bit of pointless internet fervor but a weakening of the spirit all the same.
Fitting that it would arrive as unknowing witness to the ruins of one great hope, the music of ‘Deliquesce’ is monumentally cathartic and nigh spiritual in its sorrow. Maestus’ expanded line-up supports its heavy pulse with blood and close-knit friendships that bring greater expression with the freedom of growing professionalism. Now beyond their slightly amateurish blend of melodic death/doom and atmospheric black metal a deeply atmospheric thread of funeral doom helps Maestus cut to the deepest veins of their now differently blackened sound. A huge point of growth comes with the tonal selection and balancing of the keyboard elements on ‘Deliquesce’, whereas ‘Voir Dire’ featured the more oblique work of σοφος this record features the work of SB (Sarah Beaulieu) who appears gently evocative of records such as Shape of Despair‘s ‘Angels of Distress’, that which would naturally compliment a lineage of melodic death/doom and funeral doom intensity expressed in Parker‘s guitar compositions. The band point towards Pallbearer, Ahab, and Evoken additionally for suggested influence and though the result feels appropriately close to acts like Clouds, Mournful Congregation, and Officium Triste you should be able to understand where Maestus‘ blend of blackened funeral doom, melodic death/doom and hints of atmospheric black metal pulls its stylistic traditions from.
As indicated before this is a highly professional, layered, and deliberately paced extreme doom metal record but it isn’t as extreme or far-fetched as say ‘Mirror Reaper’. It’ll no doubt initially attract the gothic death/doom, funeral doom, and melodic doom fandom first thanks to its relative modernization of those traditions and accessibly dark songwriting. Though they’ve not overloaded the spacious compositional arc of ‘Deliquesce’ with lead guitar directionality (a la Saturnus) there is that sense of forward momentum created through ornate melodic death/doom guitar leads that alternate with the anesthesia provided by sections that’ll resonate with the dedicated Evoken or classic October Tide fan. There is a velveteen roundness offered by the production values that elevates this ‘next step’ for Maestus into the league of giants within melodic extreme doom and I was not only impressed but consistently moved by the lightly melodramatic gloom of it all. There is much more potential to be explored within this sound and as such I’d largely recommend ‘Deliquesce’ to the ready dedicated extreme doom metal fandom first and foremost, the sort of folk who are just as familiar with Un as they are Rapture. Highly recommended. For preview I’d say “Black Oake” is a most concentrated look at the style of the album, and should resonate with fans of ‘Hypnagogia’ but I’d also recommend “Knell of Solemnity” for glimpses of those more modern influences that I see as great potential on the horizon.
Forlorn is the sun. 4.25/5.0
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