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Dirge : Elysian Magnetic Fields

The fifth full-length of French Post-Metal Dirge is, once again, a skilfully crafted piece of sonic art.

The French outfit Dirge has been around for quite some time now and Elysian Magnetic Fields is already their fifth full-length album. Yet I have not come across them before. Shame on me – for what a great band I have missed up to now! While I cannot judge the band’s development from previous releases, I can at least give this album the attention it deserves, for it could be a worthy discovery for any fan of intense atmospheric music.

The promo sleeve labels Dirge’s style of music “neurotic posthardcore”, but do not let this vague term trick you into shying away from this excellent piece of music! There is hardly any hardcore to be heard here. In fact, the label “Atmospheric Sludge Metal” found on Metal Archives seems much more fitting, but you are wrong again if you envision some sort of filthy, noisy Eyehategod-like stuff with maybe some synths in the background. The Sludge-roots are present and audible all the time, but the music is actually pretty melodic and benefits from a modern, clear production.

In places, I felt that Elysian Magnetic Fields sounded a bit like a less aggressive and more polished version of In the Red by Unearthly Trance. But with regard to the emotionally intense atmosphere and the psychedelic touches in the lead guitar and synthesizer-work, these Frenchmen have particularly much in common with their countrymates HKY, whose excellent debut EP comes pretty close to this both in style and quality. Eibon is another French band which, admittedly, sounds a bit different, but proves even more that the scene in France tends to hybridise the Sludge-style and create something fresh and interesting out of it. Some elements of this release could probably even justify the Post-Rock label, and in certain moments it embraces Ambient and Shoegaze – but whatever this is to be called, it is interesting from beginning to end. In addition, it is important to point out that the style, albeit a varied mixture in itself, remains fairly homogeneous throughout the album and is by no means as chaotic as it may have come across up to now.

Let us summarise the musical ingredients found on this release. First and foremost, there is not a single downright fast section – instead, the rhythm is slow and minimalist in all of the songs. In combination with the dark, at times really mournful and desperate atmosphere, this makes Elysian Magnetic Fields a clear Doom Metal release despite the doubtful labelling. The guitars are mostly distorted, but always clearly distinguishable. Powerful slow riffs, primarily based on low power chords, are characteristically combined with more melodic and in parts psychedelic lead guitars which use higher registers and are sometimes enhanced by reverb and wah effects. This creates a fairly dense sound which is further supported by perfectly fitting synthesisers. The vocals are bellowed most of the time and reveal the Core-influence, but they also remind a lot of Darren White’s work on Pentecost III or the similar vocal technique utilised on later Saturnus-releases. On three occasions, some melodic singing is used, which is solid but rather unspectacular. Both drums and bass are kept simple and steady – they are supportive of the music without playing a strong autonomous part. Still, the great subtle cymbal work in calmer sections deserves to be mentioned.

Dirge take their time in a positive sense. The songs build up very slowly, often starting with Ambient soundscapes created with guitar feedback and effects, white noise and vague droning sounds. The riffs tend to be simple and effective; they are repeated a lot, but constantly intensified by means of adding subtle nuances to the mix or changing details in the lead guitars. Spacey synths appear from time to time, very carefully placed to send shivers down the listener’s spine, only to immerse back into the mix and support the whole picture from the background. New interesting details and effects are introduced all the time, creating a density which is even reminiscent of Esoteric in places. “Cocoon” is a superb example of this: All the typical elements of this release are present in this single track without sounding chaotic to the slightest extent, and there is even an interlude of about three minutes which contains some acoustic guitar chords. You hardly notice the minutes passing. The numerous surprising elements keep the album interesting despite the long playing time. With “Sandstorm” (mesmerising!) and “Sine Time Oscillations” (pure Ambient), there are even two instrumental tracks.

All this calls for very close listening, and headphones are strongly recommendable in order to catch all the fascinating details and delve deeply into this skilfully crafted piece of sonic art. However, you will need patience and an open mind to really appreciate the music’s full potential. If you give it the chance it deserves, you will be well rewarded. This is a special album from a special band and not to be missed.

Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. Morphée Rouge
2. Obsidian
3. Cocoon
4. Sandstorm
5. Elysian Magnetic Fields
6. Sine Time Oscillations
7. Narconaut
8. Falling
9. Apogée

Duration : Approx. 66 minutes

Visit the Dirge bandpage.

Reviewed on 2011-07-04 by Dominik Sonders
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