ANGUISH – Doomkvädet (2021)REVIEW

’Twas grief enough to think mankind / All hollow, servile, insincere; / But worse to trust to my own mind / And find the same corruption there.” Emily Brontë, I Am the Only Being Whose Doom

A short lifetime spent drinking downstream of a graveyard atop a hill, instilled with the bilge and corruption of death since birth, the tragic reality of endlessly mustering oneself amidst the filth of mediocrity and poverty ensures death comes no less unreal yet easily accepted; An unfairly spent tax upon the lesser-than, to be put to sleep in our kennels by ignorance and dissociation. In life we’d marveled at death’s pageantry as if it were a culture only extant in ruins, our finest stones decayed in remembrance and silent respect given to nobly built graves, yet today even the chance to be a pile of bones beneath a regal, moss-eaten block is an impossible exclusivity — The veil upon auld valuations on human life is long lifted. In death we few are worthy of the posterity of pine boxes, a luxurious wood that only damns future generations deeper when felled, to rest unnamed in close quarters. Spare us, burn us and toss the toxic ashen dust back into the methane-reeking fields of garbage where we belong. Lie dead beneath no mourners, those still choking on toxic superheated earthliness and they with the chaos of modern man to deal with, and pray to whatever ‘God’ compels you beyond corporeal purgatory that death’s fugue becomes dirge-like, an endless sonorous ode to whatever doomed reality you’d by chance existed within. We will not be remembered as great men but mounds of finality and fodder, yet we will have exquisite soundtracks at our funerals thanks to the glorious, soothing finality of bands like Uppsala, Sweden-based doom metal quartet Anguish, whom present a marbled hall of tragedian dissent, a chorus of doom to bury us, on their fourth full-length album ‘Doomkvädet‘.

Though we’d like to believe a consistently good crop of traditional doom metal releases have persisted year-over-year these last two decades, the number of acts that merely “fit the bill” and imply style are most rampant amidst the few whom are delivered with a timeless, appropriately wounding dread-quality. Anguish were initially perceived as a fairly known quantity arisen beyond the post-Reverend Bizarre era, when the fire was still most lit and the throne emptied. The crypt-crawling sounds of ancient Italian doom metal and the dramatic, glowering heavy metal jog of pre-‘Tales of Creation’ Candlemass were the most common references beyond their first demo (‘Dawn of Doom‘, 2010) and Dark Descent debut (‘Through the Archdemon’s Head‘, 2012) which’d been my first whiff of their rough-edged yet still ‘Svensk epic’ doom metal sound and uniquely paganistic world-building. Amongst bands like Below, Procession and their ilk Anguish were considered a bit gruff and a bit weird (a touch Celtic Frost by some accounts) and yet paired well with the occult doom experimentation nearby in Black Oath and Cardinal’s Folly to some degree, letting the darker side of their worlds in to the point of tangential extreme metal appeal. I distinctly remember buying their second full-length (‘Mountain‘, 2014) when it came out and being struck by what an outlier it turned out to be within the ‘underground’ doom metal circles I’d frequent, appreciating the shades of early Cathedral, Penance, ‘Lost Paradise’ and such more than others whilst saving those thoughts for their third album (this one on High Roller) ‘Magna Est Vis Siugnah‘ (2018) and more or less getting there in my review for it.

Today I am not in need of any special new ammo to distinguish ‘Doomkvädet‘ from Anguish‘s past works, only to suggest that their extreme metal influences ease here in pace for the sake of a darker, heavier ‘traditional’ doom metal album which should delight fans of earlier Thunderstorm (see: ‘Witchunter Tales‘) and to some degree Night Gaunt, via shades of early Peaceville gloom and their ‘Ancient Dreams‘-esque guitar tone. Their sound is yet their own, of course, but I’d like to establish our place in the sweeter pits of the underground here and to state matter-of-factly that Anguish present to us the sort of doom metal one cannot waive through their unthinking heavy metal beltway — An affecting and idiosyncratic experience befitting their already impressive legacy which builds upon and emboldens character rather than trending away unto various modes of experimentation. In plainest terms, they’re still weirdly Anguish and even moreso on this fourth album.

The roughly seven minute ‘epic’ doom metal song has long been the “meat” of the Anguish experience, dramatically phrased rants that are gruff yet expressive, a mid-paced guitar driven sprawl with the occasional double-bass drum flattening served. The pummeling of the past was arguably more common on ‘Mountain’ and since then they’ve hit upon an earlier death/doom-heavy tonality while still landing as a weirding sort of crew that still echoes the early-to-mid 80’s tradition of dark Swedish doom metal. “Herein I Burn” is scathing reminder just how heavy beyond the norm Anguish are, justifying the use of this “necro-doom” tag with this rapturous, tome-curling introductory piece and the dark imagery they’ve presented it with. It isn’t until “Deranged and Forgotten” that we begin to get to the extreme/atmospheric doom metal influenced pieces that I’m most excited to present, wherein the readily apparent gloom of the piece builds its slithering, droning riffs and pained cleaner-sung momentum, sending us off with cathedralesque organs. It isn’t such a stretch that a fan of ‘The Road Less Travelled‘ and Cathedral‘s ‘In Memorium’ tape would be thrilled by this sort of song whilst in the thick of it, and if nothing else Anguish sustain this mournful, irreverent sensation for the full ~49 minutes of ‘Doomkvädet‘. That isn’t to say there aren’t highlights and variation throughout the full listen, “Blood Veil” certainly has my favorite riffs overall, and “Our Funeral” is probably one of the more devastatingly ‘epic’ pieces from the band to date. The major point to make here is that there are no follies, no filler, no pointless flippancy involved, nothing that would serve to break the immersion of our collective morbid descent. For my own taste this is the absolute best sort of traditional doom metal craft, timelessly served yet edged with a rotten-shambling aggression that ensures its bitter surrealism is something else, far beyond the feigned normalcy of nowadays ‘epic’ doom metal species. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (88/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Sun & Moon Records
RELEASE DATE:August 1st, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Doom Metal

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