We mourn because the inequities that arise from death are obscurant of our own individual traits as the mind cannot help but wander fearfully towards its own fated end. Remembrance and the deep-seated need to leave clear and unbittered mark upon others is the last great defeat of any man who’d wished control over their body, their ‘self’, and their legacy. Too many live among us without this reflection in mind who’d primally react only when stunned by the reminder that their time is coming as others fall astray in the ever deepening mass grave of our species. We are so moved by the elegiac prose of the last, and always unheard, farewell given to the corporeal wastes of being rarely because of pity or longing but, because it forces each of us to begin to mourn for ourselves as long as we continue to live. The trauma of a beloved passing is an electric cage for the empathetic who’d live daily with hope for the planet and those cynical enough might choose the only known path to freedom: To live as a nihilist glorifying this anthropocene end, profiting from it, bathing in the pollution and the blood-drenched rivers of styx as it’d appear slowly before us. Dallas, Texas cinematic post-metallic septet Dead to a Dying World would instead sit in that cage and mourn in lovely song, wrenching out the human condition, and bidding farewell to what love and frustration existence brought as civilization and humanity collapsed.
The beauteous sepia toned canary that is ‘Elegy’ features an eclectic fellowship that’d include current/ex-members of fellow Tofu Carnage alum Tyrannosorceress and Ecocide along with ties to Sabbath Assembly and live realizations of Wrekmeister Harmonies. In seeking a path even more cinematic and affecting beyond that of ‘Reprise’ (2015), a re-imagining of their out of print self-titled 2011 album, they’ve incorporated several guest appearances that range from prominent placement of ex-Swans legends Thor Harris and Jarboe to features of Dylan Desmond (Bell Witch), as well as contributions from members of The Angelus, Sangre de Muerdago, and Sans Soleil. This village of support again includes producer Billy Anderson (Amenra, Infernal Coil, Pallbearer) with mastering from Justin Weiss at Trakworx, that is to say that they’ve reconsidered their approach on ‘Litany’ (2015) and moved towards an increasingly ‘cinematic’ sound that’d approach post-rock levels of atmospheric space.
Back in 2011 combinations of sludge metal, post-metal, and crust punk began to swing wildly in the many directions suggested by groups like Agrimonia, Nux Vomica, Öroku, and Morne and this’d give birth to the loftier goals of two impressive Texan ‘epic crust’ collectives between Ecocide and Dead to a Dying World. Each would feature a sort of ‘chamber music’ extra: Heidi Moore of Ecocide incorporated violin along with her snarling vocals and Dead to a Dying World took it one step further with a dedicated violia, upright bass, and cello presence. Moore would eventually join Dead to a Dying World for ‘Litany’ and this’d really redefine the projects goals, erasing that ‘epic crust metal’ sound as they’d focus on a mixture of atmospheric sludge metal and post-black metal. I’d go as far as to say that they’ve more or less nailed it on this third refinement of that core ambition. If you can pardon the cliche, to see ‘Elegy’ as a complete elevation of Dead to a Dying World‘s sound is appropriate.
“Syzygy” opens with an ode to bodily dissolution, a disintegration of remains accursed by their own frailty and with prose that’d straddle the line between resentment and mythological wonder for the geologic time expressed through what I’d say resembles a fine neofolk-ism. From there Dead to a Dying World pour their mysterious liquid into the eye of the storm with the 11+ minute epic “The Seer’s Embrace” as if we’d landed within the apex of “Stones From the Sky” without any buildup. The storm recedes and that neofolk/gothic country vibe returns but, from then on informed by picturesque post-rock and grinding sludge hits along the way. Those first five minutes of the song will undoubtedly sell the album to thousands as they’re so beautifully composed and performed as a piece that almost begs to be witnessed live. The song finishes with movement towards atmospheric/post-black metal influence edging upwards. That track more or less defines the whole 50 minute listening experience of ‘Elegy’ but the remaining compositions aren’t always so forthcoming with their ideas. The second most resonant moment, “Empty Hands, Hollow Hymns” has a gushing later-Agalloch sort of appeal that’ll impress but feel slightly rescinded compared to “The Seer’s Embrace”. “Of Moss and Stone” attempts to undo the expectations built on the other extended tracks within but loses a bit of its gust with some repeated structures to start and an artfully noisome experiment to end.
‘Elegy’ is a beautifully realized piece in three acts, and though that arc might not always be clear-and-present it is to be expected from any modern post-rock/extreme metal influenced arrangement. Where I sour just slightly after many listens comes with the shorter pieces that precede each of the longer ones. “Vernal Equinox” is a memorable moment on the full listen but also a true pace-killer that I’d end up skipping on later approaches. “Hewn From Falling Water” fares a bit better in the sense that it isn’t intrusive and it ties back to “Syzygy” stylistically though it never felt necessary as a transition between the tracks that sandwich it. I’d not suggest that ‘Elegy’ is bloated by any means but those core three tracks and the intro of “Syzygy” are stunning enough as an experience unto themselves. The major appeal of this record comes in the moment rather than hindsight; The graceful movement between a variety of paces, tones, textures, and poetic expression makes for a floaty and soulfully heavy duck out of existence before it ends and that’ll read as the defeated’s catharsis or an ethereal spectacle depending on your own perspective. Though it isn’t generally to my own taste in post-metal, which leans a bit more towards atmospheric sludge, I did quickly understand and appreciate the feat of engineering and feeling that Dead to a Dying World accomplish with ‘Elegy’ and as such I can give a fairly high recommendation for it. For preview absolutely start with the first two songs, “Syzygy” and “The Seer’s Embrace” as they’re incontestably appreciable in their scope. If you’re not quite sure what lies beyond, I’d say take the plunge with “Of Moss and Stone” which serves as an equally cumulative immersion representative of the full listen.
Leave the world to darkness, and to me. 3.75/5.0
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