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Suffer Yourself : Ectoplasm


With this sophomore release, Suffer Yourself really hit their atmospheric Funeral/Death/Doom stride.



Suffer Yourself were one of those bands that seemingly sprang, fully-formed, out of nowhere, with a debut release of 'Inner Sanctum' in early 2014. It wasn't quite that simple, though: the trio responsible for that were essentially re-recording founder Stanislav Govorukha's solo demo of the same name from 2012 - though the demo only got a physical release, on tape via Contaminated Tones, a couple of months after Cimmerian Shade Recordings launched the debut CD. Fortunately, since I was reviewing the album and paying attention at the time, I also acquired one of the nicely-packaged, signed and personalised demo tapes. Which may not be strictly relevant to the review, but, as someone who still treasures 'real' copies of music, I always feel that it's deeply commendable when bands go that extra mile, even over and above a straightforward physical release. Which also turned out to be the case with 'Ectoplasm' - again released by Cimmerian Shade - available as a digipack CD, tape or ultra-limited leather-bound A5 CD, with or without T-shirt options. For those who don't feel the need to collect rarities, rest assured that the musical content is the same, even on the simple digital download option: for those that do, I'm very satisfied with the cool workmanship of the handmade leather sleeve, and the visual extras enclosed.

Anyway, moving along from the presentation: having relocated from Poland to Ukraine between demo and debut, Suffer Yourself has now shifted operations to Sweden, and is - apart from the constant presence of Stan Govorukha - a new four-piece line-up, featuring guest vocal contributions from Andrey Tkachenko (Vin de Mia Trix) and Drone work from François Bilodeau (co-author of the track 'Transcend The Void'). Most importantly, perhaps - although the previous percussive programming was none too shabby - is the inclusion of a drummer in the person of Kateryna Osmuk, who also supplies soprano vocals.

Pleasingly, the pieces on offer have lost none of their intellectual angle, with tracks including poetry from Russian authors Zinaida Gippius and Nika Turbina, alongside extracts from Lovecraft and Poe, all of them combined around the core concepts of afterlife and rebirth into the infinite. Equally pleasingly, they've lost none of their ability to combine the staples of Funeral and Death/Doom with some unexpected and less-explored angles: as on the opening title track - progressing from a spookily ritualistic beginning, through the abrupt shock of Andrey's familiar shrieks against a cavernous background, to a borderline Death/Funeral-paced section with a delightfully Gothic female counterpoint chorale, all within a matter of minutes. And it's not simply a case of throwing everything and the kitchen sink indiscriminately into the mix: the transitions, even the quicker ones, are so smoothly executed and natural-sounding that you could wonder why someone else hasn't already figured this out and made this album already.

To an extent, that smoothness even disguises the fact that, actually, the content is surprisingly close to 'including the kitchen sink' levels - it's an extraordinarily diverse, even transgressive, album for a notionally Funeral-based work. There's plenty of the slow, hypnotic repetition that sits at the heart of the genre - the five tracks, ranging from seven to twenty minutes, are clearly spacious enough to let such motifs expand and develop incrementally where necessary. It's just that they're equally willing to dive off into some more radical twists and turns - sombre Latin chants, clean-vocalled melodies, echoing atmospherics, darkly pulsing ambience and up-tempo blackened blasts, to name a few just from the initial couple of tracks - with a deftness that belies the diversity on offer.

Don't get the impression that this makes it some kind of arty Prog-prefixed venture, though. Whilst the complexity of the compositions might sometimes qualify on technical grounds, 'Ectoplasm' is primarily a heavy, gloomy beast, firmly anchored in lightless and dreadful places, and the lighter or more romantic flourishes serve to emphasize that with contrast, not reduce it. This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with 'Inner Sanctum' - essentially, it's a refinement of that same model: an evolution oozing with quality, but undeniably sharing the same basic DNA. And, in much the same vein, it presents an hour of music that really captivates with its depth, breadth and span: I'd struggle to want to pick out a highlight, rather than to listen to the whole album, though at a push - perhaps the keyboard sections and melodies (and the screaming climax) of 'Dead Visions' give it a very slight edge in that category.

If you want a recommendation: well, I allowed myself a top twelve for 2016, and Suffer Yourself made the cut as the sole Funeral Doom representative. I'd simply describe it as being head and shoulders above anything else in that genre over the last year. So, yeah - buy it, it's very good indeed.


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Reviewer's rating: 9/10

Information

Tracklist :
1. Ectoplasm
2. Abysmal Emptiness
3. The Core
4. Dead Visions
5. Transcend The Void

Duration : Approx. 61 minutes

Visit the Suffer Yourself bandpage.

Reviewed on 2017-01-29 by Mike Liassides
Frowning-Extinct
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