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Walk Through Fire : Hope Is Misery

Walk Through Fire's music is essentially twisted, vile and one-dimensional, but the darkness it emanates is supreme and transcendental.

'Hope Is Misery' is the latest offering from the relatively unheralded Swedish band Walk Through Fire; a Gothenburg-based quartet signed to the highly acclaimed Aesthetic Death Records from England.

Walk Through Fire play slow and austere Sludge Doom metal of the twisted and most inhospitable kind; a style of extreme doom that will most likely appeal to strict fans of the style, but probably also to those who find pleasure in sonic expressions along the lines of Funeralium, Ataraxie, Overmars, Rorcal and label-mates Wreck Of The Hesperus, and if you wish to dub 'Hope Is Misery' a Sludge/Funeral doom album, nobody will fall from their chairs. Now, they who are interested in listening to that kind of music and get thoroughly acquainted with its buried treasures, need to equip themselves with hefty amounts of the one single commodity the post modern world has got only in trace quantities, and that is simply patience.

Patience, because extreme doom-laden sludge metal isn't a commercial product - on the very contrary - and as such it defies the laws of advertisement and consuming; of fast living and fast profiting; of stark materialism and the senseless accumulation of such. No, Sludge/Doom of the extreme kind is slow and polarized on all accounts; slowly digested, slowly and painfully consumed, slow to be likeable or to become relate-able - you get the picture. This kind of music is the opposite of popularity, fame, commercialism, success or the will to appeal. It is, for all intents and purposes, the engine of punishment, and when it's done right - it punishes to an even greater extent. This review, however, isn't a sludge manifesto of any sort or kind; it merely mentions the mindset one must have before trying to listen (and ultimately enjoy) music such as this.

But Walk Through Fire play an even more extreme form of sludge than their peers. Theirs is completely barren and skeletal and dark, with monochromatic, barely noticeable change in the riff progression and a vague idea of melody. As is the case with Black metal bands that are not primarily judged according to how technical they are but rather upon the standard of how atmospheric their music can become, no matter what measure - primitive or otherwise - is being taken in order to generate that all-encompassing, devouring, lethal atmosphere (case in point: Dark Throne), so is the case with this kind of music, namely Sludge, with a capital S. After all, good sludge music has always had the capacity of raising the banner of the apocalypse, capturing its essence with its sonic equivalent; apocalypse and total ruination, and when certain bands in this over-crowded niche succeed in that - then fuck the technicalities.

Walk Through Fire's music virtually lacks dynamics, technical aspiration of any kind or melody in the traditional sense; it is, however, essentially twisted, vile and one-dimensional, but the darkness it emanates - the hatred, the bodily harm and mind-fuck it aims for - is supreme and transcendental.

As alienating as the music may be, as colossally corroded, heavy on feedbacks and crude sonic aversions, it manages, with its quasi-haphazard, semi-improvisational, fragmented manner with which the songs were assembled and executed, to garner some plausible appreciation: its rationality lies with the fact the instruments have all, in unison, engineered a sombre ambience most sludge bands fail at generating. Not only that, but Walk Through Fire have constructed an album that has somehow purified and refined the concept of sludge into an art form of the damned, and in the process they have excluded every stoner rock and hardcore punk piece of evidence that is usually found at the very foundations of the style. The atonal, scattered, ugly riffs; the sustained droning chords, the primitivism with which the band explore the most nihilistic of soundscapes, the ritualistic nature of the drumming - they all serve as the instruments with which the band carve this grey, unhallowed, universe of coldness and misery.

Take fine albums such as 'Circus of the Fallen' by the Scottish band Black Sun or 'II' by Walk Through Fire's label-mates Eibon, and compare those to 'Hope Is Misery', and those aforementioned albums will seem to you like a walk in the park: ultra melodic and life-affirming ear-candies in comparison to the utter night presented on Hope Is Misery.

Frankly, there wasn't much expectation here for any sort of liking for yet another Sludge/Doom band (thinking we'd be offered yet another boring, half-assed and uninspired sludge offering in the Highgate or Volition vein), but after sitting through a whole listening session, digesting this 79 minute long sonic excursion, following its progression on roads less traveled, it has grabbed this writer with volatile mystique; its filth - pure, its emotions - raw and brutal, its presentation - honest and unique.

EyeHateGod and Grief have both come to mind during the listening experience, for different reasons: EyeHateGod for the sheer bleakness of the sounds and their maximal unfriendly non-musicality that manages nevertheless to correspond and interact with the listener and establish an intimate relationship with him or her, however uncomfortable the music may be; and Grief, for being a partner in, well, grief, matching the pain and raw hatred of the aforementioned and raising the bar even higher, as if competing for the title of the most torturous sludge band in existence.

But never mind the primitive, crass aspects of Walk Through Fire's music, for this band have got both the looks AND the brains. They open the album with an instrumental track that needs no lyrics to match, as the darkness emanated is instant. It mostly comprises long strokes of monolithic guitar distortion, occasional drum beats and long drones (and those fucking bass belches), in addition to the usual feedbacks and amplifier noises. Then, six tracks and 68 painstaking minutes later, the album is being concluded by yet another instrumental piece called Laid In Earth (how appropriate a track title), which is, in a nut shell, a piano piece that is as bleak and consciously unadventurous as the rest of the music. Have you ever heard how a torturous piano sounds? That track is a crash course in how to make your piano sound unappealing and desolate. But that was the purpose in the first place, wasn't it?

The remaining 6 tracks in between the prologue and epilogue are just some bad-ass sluggish, ritualistic sludge that takes its time to build up - governed mostly by unorthodox drum work and a gigantic bass guitar pulse - and while doing so it flirts with modernity but eventually sounds like nothing offered by full blown Post/Atmospheric hardcore bands, or Doomcore, or Blackgaze or Post-metal/Post-rock groups playing such a style, and despite the fact anyone with a good ear could identify at least a trace of any of the aforementioned post-modern styles of heavy music within the recording, to these experienced ears it ultimately sounds like unadulterated, grim and cold sludge, having a shred of melodic undercurrents that contrasts the grey and lifeless music.

So yeah, go back to your EyeHateGod and Grief albums if you wish to taste the ultimate Sludge experience, or instead, just listen to Walk Through Fire's 'Hope Is Misery'; if you think you could handle it, that is.

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Reviewer's rating: 8/10


Tracklist :
1. Sustained In Grief
2. Hope Is Misery
3. Grow Stronger In Isolation
4. Harden In Despair
5. Waking Horror
6. Next To Nothing
7. Another Dream Turned Nightmare
8. Laid In Earth

Duration : Approx. 79 minutes

Visit the Walk Through Fire bandpage.

Reviewed on 2014-06-07 by Chaim Drishner
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