DOLDRUM – The Knocking, or the Story of the Sound That Preceded Their Disappearance (2022)REVIEW

Misery is a thing, misery is not a conception—pain is real, pain is not an impression. Misery and pain would still exist and prey upon mind substance were there no men, for mind also is real, and not a mere conception. The pain you have suffered has not been the pain of matter, but the pain of spirit. Matter can not suffer. Were it matter that suffered, the heated sand would writhe in agony. No; it is only mind and spirit that experience pain, or pleasure, and neither mind nor spirit can evade its destiny, even if it escape from the body.” John Uri Lloyd, Etidorhpa, or, the end of the earth

There exists an entire world of terrible wonder at the hidden doorways of the Earth, right beneath our feet. — Prior to the brutal syncretism of spiritualism unto the terrifyingly linear dolt-paraded aggression upon all sentience it is today in our United States there were several scattershot spires of glorious fiction roused within generations of inquisitive, imaginative explorations of this exact sort of medium between life, death and the proposed downward-facing portal to other worlds. Spirit worlds, hereafter and places of judgement were only briefly set asunder for the sake of believable realism applied to these unreal, unexplored spaces per the different brand of ignorance of the time, some fictive maestros positing phenomenal and dangerous hollowed Earth theorem of realms lit by gloriously descriptive rational minds, scientific folks eager to unveil the dark unknown which so many feared in glorious transgress of intriguing wonder.

As the life held within the shadows of the mind were slowly snuffed by innovative machinists and geologists, as physical science practiced beyond independent natural philosophy for the sake of gov’t subsidized nukes, soon erased the world below so that an escape unto the sky above might be possible, our uncertain gazing away from the soil so died alongside the fantastic soul of folk horror in their wake. To the fearless traversers of the dark this’d represented a pitting death of regional folklore which applied animus directly to the lands walked, a subterranean magick dreamed up by the insatiably curious faded to dust, as character-rich novels soon became yellowed and eroded tombstones. Colorado and Massachusetts borne occult-infused black metal fellowes Doldrum see this niche of uniquely American folklore through the ‘corpse eyes’ of these sorts of alchemically gifted, natural philosophic artistes as an exacting opportunity to craft science fictive and thought-provoking allegorical fiction of their own in presentation of this, their inspired debut full-length. ‘The Knocking, or The Story of the Sound that Preceded Their Disappearance‘ is itself a unique work of hollow earth fiction, a tale of three fellowes with only their wits, a wild notion of edible fungi/moulds and their pickaxes in hand as they tunnel toward an answer to the spiriting of their kin and a breach into newfound Great Earth.

It might be hard to accept the idea that great things come from isolation, from the intensified inner-spelunking of naturally gifted, deeply introverted existentialists but then again you’ll likely have missed out on a lot of black metal if that particular thought is any sort of roadblock. This is my rationalization of how the uncertainty and strife of pandemia anno MMXX pushed these folks, who’d worked together in various combinations in lesser known demo project Vpaahsalbrox and likely likewise pandemic-shot Gallows, in the direction of a hollow-earther avant-garde black metal region of space. What we can glean from their past-and-present is that they’ve some serious respect for the various traditions of USBM and the permutations which’ve arisen beyond the second wave’s point of great flux, though Doldrum is inarguably a modern black metal act with a familiar mood and unique implementation of themed narrative. This much’d been obviate when their first demo tape (‘The Knocking‘, 2020) revealed as a rough draft of the first chapter of this debut album’s adventure. The suggestion that their work is relevant to the nonconformist values of Lugubrum and Ved Buens Ende (and, Virus by extension) is accurate but only so much as the rhythms take a distorted angle in regular intervals and the production values allow the bass guitar work to sing and wallop vital subterranean atmospheric values unto the ringing, weirding pulse of Doldrum‘s horror-adventure. Though still vague in likeness, I’d press closer tonal analogues founded in groups like Hagzissa, Culte Des Ghoules and Veiled (Germany) each whom brace their muse with a skeleton of either folklore, horror, or each and brandish a certain twanging abyss-staring character at the same time.

“The Knocking” — Or, the eerie eagerness to follow this unspeakable being’s beckoning below which creeps over me, not as the wave of the chills but a compulsion of select muscles, as if painlessly yanked into action by marionette strings to avert one’s own Death. The hook presented in the opening moments of Doldrum‘s narrative are immediately compelling to the point of restless hands and darting eyes, wherein jangling guitar tones and a bass guitar tone the size of a tautly coiled bridge cable create an exciting fever surrounding the vocalist’s energetic narrative; a depiction of thee possessed and/or recently discovered moon-reeking presence who speaks in cryptic riddles as if the ore the town mines is itself cursed or, some manner of sentient evil birthed by the Earth’s own ire. Each of the five pieces which comprise this record emit a bit of off-kilter radiation but without reaching too far outside of the progressive black metal spectrum, hardly touching post-black metal tenets and instead capturing the listeners attention with expressly adept handle upon ornate, duplicitous grooves… a sort of mayhemic pleasure taken in their tunneling, and this is most strongly felt in the mad rhythmic dance of album centerpiece “The Visitor” which still pairs beautifully in its fully evolved form alongside its companion from ‘The Knocking‘ tape. This portion of the album should hold great heavy water in the minds of fans of everything from Laster to nowadays Dødheimsgard without expecting Doldrum‘s expression to read as exaggerative, or, outside of the peculiar scene set.

“The Abduction” — Or, the bloody disappearance that precedes the ‘quake and a jet black tree of stone which comes beyond the omen of the Visitor’s in-quest. Yanked through the forest unto a cavern, an atmospheric and unreal headspace fit for harried blurs of ringing chords and mushroom-eater grooves which continue the major momentum of the initial scenery. Here the band depict the visualized aspect of their story best, incorporating keyboards/synth and howls of shock and pain as the passage to “The Offering” gives their story its daimonian choice at the foot of the black tree. At this point in the album we’ve sort of left behind the idea that Doldrum are a ruddy underground black metal band and can consider this well-founded concept album a peek of brilliancy which fashions original parables in the spirit of old, twisted avant-garde literature to the tune of “progressive” black metal. They’ve not yet worked up to something as cinematically charged as Wayfarer‘s ‘A Romance With Violence‘ but, only for the sake of crafting music with physical properties of aggression applied to their own ornate depiction-intended techniques; Here the parable is vitally clear and succinct without the need for the reveal of any actual world below as the spiriting away communicated within the droning exodus of “The Disappearance” is harrowing and fantastical enough in scene to cue the curtains on the event.

The pragmatist’s ambition, honed in a celestial mind palace and presented by a tempering hand upon black metal’s easily unsheathed swordplay ensures ‘The Knocking, or The Story of the Sound that Preceded Their Disappearance‘ is an cutting-enough experience without losing focus upon the masterful, magical touch of the modest-yet-thrilling adventure which introduces the psychedelic folkloric vision of Doldrum to the greater black metal audience. They’ve brought these events to life in a fearsome sort of way which leaves the mind wandering within each scene, to the point that what one might visualize from said prose may very well morph in their imagination as they re-read and re-listen to each song over time. If only black metal were so often such strongly musical, adventurous and thoughtfully presented pieces of short storytelling it’d draw in more folks with such capability of setting vision to medium. A fantastic experience and, even if disengaged from the lore, a strong modern black metal record for those prone to rhythmic entrancement. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
TITLE:The Knocking, Or The Story of the Sound that Preceded Their Disappearance
RELEASE DATE:May 27th, 2022

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