When the stars of necromancy are moved, then the dead give forth miracles and signs, the deceased bleed, dead things are seen, voices are heard from graves, tumults and tremblings arise in the charnel-house, and the dead appear in the form and dress of the living…” Paracelsus, Concerning the Nature of Things

Glowing with prospicience for the coming vivisepulture that this long standing Querétaro, Mexico-based death/doom metal entity is known for, we encounter what may prove too steep an increase in depth of burial for the average gloom-sower. The seventy minute long bout of wilting captivity presented on Majestic Downfall‘s sixth full-length album, ‘Aorta‘, spreads its reaches across a mere four tracks of purgatorial extremes, each representing an entire episode of befouled and stricken-down consciousness unto itself. There will be some potent and rousing form of cathartic bliss within but primarily for the patiently attuned and the ‘ready indoctrinated classicist. Whether by attrition or haunting resonance, enough tuneful oppression eventually gathers to transmogrify the belligerent and unworthy else as ‘Aorta’ bleeds itself out slow.

The next “extreme” for Jacobo Córdova‘s (Personal Records, Zombiefication) 2006 founded and 2015 expanded melodic death/doom metal project offers a combination of elongation and deeper-set melodicism, now resembling the extreme pacing of earlier Mournful Congregation yet retaining the strong influence of 90’s European death/doom and ‘dark’ metal. What does this mean practically? Simply put, they’ve written thirty percent longer songs which now range from ~15-20 minutes on average. Instead of charging up the restless, carefully sown plight of early Katatonia with bulkier death/doom metal force as on ‘Waters of Fate‘ (2018) they’ve stretched those bones out as far as possible without losing the high melodic value of that legacy of death/doom. If this is not immediately evident, spend a good hour with album closer “Become Eternal” on repeat and you will have soaked up this essence tenfold. But we’ve more or less gotten ahead of ourselves here, the most meaningful place to start is probably another attempt at summing up Majestic Downfall‘s discography, which I’d fumbled a bit back in 2018.

The first three releases from this project, before it was a “band” per se, were more or less recorded as a duo and wouldn’t call for expansion until they’d shed some of the strong connections made between depressive black metal, melodic death/doom metal, and ‘dark’ metal with all of these things being sourced from an indefinite “Peaceville three” seed and the second generation beyond. Pulling in members of melodic death metal bands Dies Irae and Umbrälia for ‘…When Dead‘ (2015) was astute as this would be their bigger moment of recognition to start. This fourth record also found the band entertaining a much more palatable ode to 90’s European death/doom metal, influenced by “gothic” bands but not necessarily gothic themselves in spirit and infusing their own ‘modern’ movement which I’d compared to Clouds at the time. The step from ‘Waters of Fate’ unto ‘Aorta’ is just as significant today as ‘…When Dead’ was back in 2015, if only for the sake of the muzzle of classic forms coming off and the songcraft becoming doubly sized as a result. What might’ve been a 6-10 minute storm of piteous catharsis on the previous record is now an enormous extreme doom metal epic driven by impossibly long stretches of hook-intensive guitar work and pure death metal harass.

Second single and opener “Roberta” is undoubtedly the best foot forward and the key ‘proof’ in making sense of my description, the sheer number of ideas and their arrangements are dense enough that we never hit the point of hanging air; This means that the ~20 minute piece lands as a complete recording unto itself, an EPs worth of ideas in beauteous arrangement. If we consider the early works of Celestial Season or even just ‘Jhva Elohim Meth’ the melodic content (if stripped of accoutrement and repetition) of those entire releases compares to this enormous song in some sense but the pace and dynamic of the song itself could be approached as melodic death/doom or ‘dark metal’ at Ophis pace, a meter that cannot be mistaken for funeral death/doom but still feels entirely plodding. When we dig back to the core inspiration for this type of music, Scandinavian extreme doom metal, we cannot consider stylistic references too valuable outside of the gratifying moment of recognition because they have been done to death by thousands of bands year over year for decades. But, we have to consider the value of emotional resonance and ornate melody seen from two lenses, the ‘old school’ 90’s death/doom fusion of catchiness with souring gothic poetry and the lineage beyond that has developed within various forums of atmospheric and gothic death/doom metal. It shouldn’t be such a complex road to travel towards finding “Roberta” and most all of Majestic Downfall‘s latest album an effective invocation of this serious emotional conveyance and ear-worming melody. They’d almost gotten it right in 2015, they’d found a heavier version of it in 2018 and now today ‘Aorta’ is the right balance of downtrodden spirits and entrancing melodic affect. They’ve not had to trade in any sort of heaviness to reach this result, extending each piece gives all necessary breathing room needed to revel in the dynamic shift between mountainous death/doom stamping and intimate reverbed ‘romantic’ guitar stroking passages.

The first single from the record, “A Dying Crown“, is the shortest at just over thirteen minutes yet it proves rhythmically sophisticated beyond expected parameters. The waltzing movement of the song soon reveals its several-peaked melodic rise, rooted in traditional doom metal as modulated via 90’s British extreme doom metal but building towards a finale that gives a slight nod to their early Forgotten Tomb influenced works. As enamored as I was by each of these songs it was the title track that felt most “complete” and representative of what is newly impressive about this configuration of Majestic Downfall and much of that stems from variance in vocal techniques, pacing, the enormous bass guitar sound, and the constant stream of lead guitars shaping the ebb of the piece, which takes several impressive turns before resolving. Why this record is believable and authentic compared to a thousand others is no mystery, there are no cheap shortcuts here and none of the album reads as complacent or meaninglessly applied for the sake of excess. Feeding this cleanly resonant yet never too glossy or plain sound design is a mix/master from Necromorbus Studio, who’d likewise made all the difference on the two previous albums. A spacious halo of reverb around the drum kit gives a high-risen feeling, the guitars provide a channeled surround or, a blanketing effect that warms and suffocates into crisp, overdriven power when hitting upon pure death/doom metal thrusts.

Though I’ll admit to being a bit lost in some of these longer songs as I began to familiarize myself with the album, they do become distinct and stately entities with sensical progression and memorable hooks once they can be absorbed. ‘Aorta’ will take a bit longer to sink in compared to ‘Waters of Fate’ but at the same time it might hit a bit deeper for how elaborately framed each piece is, slowly encircling their prey until the melodious nature of the band finally strikes. The most important note I’d eventually land upon for Majestic Downfall‘s latest record is that it successfully traverses worlds that are seemingly impossible without some caveat to heaviness or melodic value, nearing the funeral doom sized presentation while still landing the ‘gothic’ melodic death/doom sound at a very high, unforgettably stated standard is a grand accomplishment. As such, there is intense crossover appeal for this record between those longing for a certain 90’s sound, those looking for immersive and detailed extreme doom metal pieces, and fans of affected melody as a grand centerpiece for death/doom metal works. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Personal Records
RELEASE DATE:May 21st, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Melodic Death/Doom Metal

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