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Loss : Despond

As a whole, Loss’ new album is more varied than one might have expected.

The year 2011 seems to be a good one for fans of intense Doom, bringing us new releases from many distinguished bands of the contemporary scene. Loss from the US are one of them. They already have a solid following among fans of extreme Death Doom albeit having merely released an EP and a couple of splits. Now, seven years after their excellent demo ’Life Without Hope, Death Without Reason’ and six years after its re-issue on CD, we finally have the chance to enjoy the band’s talent on a full-length album. Given the long wait, it can seem fairly disappointing at first to see three old songs on the tracklist. What is more, among the seven remaining tracks there are four minimalist ambient-like ones acting as intro, outro and interludes. Read on to find out why there is still plenty of reason to buy this album.

First of all, Loss do not simply continue where they had left off with their debut EP. The years in between have left their marks on the band’s style even though the basic formula remains the same: They still deliver uncompromising, ultra-depressive Death Doom of the highest calibre complete with extremely deep growls in the vein of Thergothon or Until Death Overtakes Me. Slow distorted guitars take turns with brilliant clean guitar interludes, and the whole picture is topped off by outstanding bass work. However, the newer material tends to lay less emphasis on mournful melodies and instead focuses more on heavy, crushing riffs. But this does not mean that the band’s characteristic melodic lines are absent altogether – they are all the more happily embraced when they finally appear. The development towards a heavier, less melodic approach does not come as a total surprise anyway since it is already noticeable on the track “An Ill Body Seats My Sinking Sight” from the split with Worship (2005), which returns here as a re-recording.

All this leads to a second important aspect: As a whole, the album is more varied than one might have expected. Quite naturally, the new material contrasts a bit with the fantastic EP-tracks “Cut Up, Depressed and Alone” and “Conceptual Funeralism unto the Final Act (of Being)”. One might consider it a pity that the new tracks hardly deliver a counterpart to the captivating twin guitar melodies known from before which sound like a less complex version of Mournful Congregation. Still, this contrast is hardly negative in any sense, it rather keeps the record interesting over its long playing time and gives room for different aspects of Loss’ trademark sound to stand out. In the context of this album, the aforementioned songs unfold even more of their original potential. They also profit from a better production here, sounding clearer and more powerful but still retaining the raw, unpolished nature which was typical of the band’s older recordings. Additionally, the re-recordings bring some minor changes, for example the addition of a subtle background choir in “Conceptual…” and some slight differences in the guitar lines. Thus, if you already own the EP, it does not necessarily become superfluous in your collection with the release of ’Despond’.

Speaking of background choirs, there are some fresh elements to be found on this album. Clean choirs also appear on “Shallow Pulse”, but the purists among us can relax, for the chanting is very much in the background and placed effectively to create an even darker, hypnotic atmosphere. Then, spoken word in the vein of Mourning Beloveth – but less prominent – comes up from time to time, especially in the otherwise instrumental Ambient pieces. Those tracks are another surprising novelty adding even more variation to the album. The integration of pure Dark Ambient such as “Deprived of the Void” into Extreme Doom seems to have become a trend in the scene over the past few years, but luckily, the two styles combine very well. The title track is much more interesting, however: Revolving around some very bleak piano patterns, it almost sounds out of place at first for a band which normally does not use any synths or other additional instruments at all. Yet, it eventually integrates well into the atmosphere of the album and adds a fresh nuance to it. The same is true for the final track, “The Irreparable Act”, with its haunting clean guitar lines. Instrumental tracks of such suffocating effect are very rare. This one leaves the listener drained of all hope at the end of an album whose title could not have been chosen more aptly: ’Despond’ comes across as an imperative no listener could refuse to obey when a dismal organ (another novelty) melts into a closing choir which finally fades into nothingness.

Lastly, “Silent and Completely Overcome” deserves special mentioning because it features clean vocals from the vocalist of the promising Doom-outfit Pallbearer. The vocal lines are excellent and integrated well into the Loss-sound. This song alone would justify buying the album, featuring both crushing riffs and great melodies plus an absolutely unexpected blastbeat-passage with very underground-sounding Black Metal-vocals. This occasional aggressive edge is another great surprise and suits the band really well. The only downside to said song is the sudden fade-out at the end in the middle of a vocal part.

As a bottom line, this album is highly recommended for both old and new fans. The most essential tracks of their old material are combined with excellent new ones, which can be a big advantage for those who do not own their previous releases yet: The splits are virtually impossible to find, and the EP is not very easy to get by these days, either. Those who already own those releases will still get 40 minutes of fresh Doom.

Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. Weathering the Blight
2. Open Veins to a Curtain Closed
3. Cut Up, Depressed and Alone
4. Deprived of the Void
5. An Ill Body Seats My Sinking Sight
6. Despond
7. Shallow Pulse
8. Conceptual Funeralism unto the Final Act (of Being)
9. Silent and Completely Overcome
10. The Irreparable Act

Duration : Approx. 66 minutes

Visit the Loss bandpage.

Reviewed on 2011-08-03 by Dominik Sonders
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