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Begräbnis : Begräbnis/Estrangement (Split EP)

A brief but hugely enthralling glimpse into the extreme and contrasting worlds of Begräbnis and Estrangement.

Japan's Weird Truth label is about as apt a place as can be imagined for this split release to find a home. Two bands, united only in their complete and wilful disregard for convention, each contributing a single, lengthy track that showcases their own unique and contrasting approaches to Doom, could be considered the very definition of 'weird truth'! Presented as a limited cardboard gatefold with brief and somewhat enigmatic biographies enclosed, even the cover artwork - monochrome stark landscape for Begräbnis versus the sepia fantasy woodland of Estrangement - is a schizophrenic affair that defies forming any sensible expectations.

Much like the CD inside, in fact. If you're already familiar with either band, then you might have an idea what to expect. If not, prepare to encounter something distinctly unusual.

Begräbnis (German for Funeral), opening with 'Reinlich Weisse Trauer' (Clean White Mourning, presumably in relation to the common oriental use of white to signify bereavement), are a Japanese trio playing what they describe as Ambient/Industrial Doom. As per their previous two EPs, the titles are also exclusively in German. That is apparently true of the lyrics too, but don't expect to discover that from listening to their vocalist Fumika Souzawa: her raspingly evil and eerie, abyssal growls are twisted to unintelligibility and beyond (and the minimalist packaging of all their works eschews printing them). Still, that's not even the strangest thing about the band, though such ferociously harsh female vocals are a rarity on their own. Nor is the cold, leaden, unrelieved darkness of their appropriately Funeral-paced musical palette, starting, centring, and finishing on ambient passages linked by a winding remorselessness into the hinterlands of extremity, on waves of distorted guitar and voice backed by heartbeat-slow percussion: that could be considered reasonably standard for the territory. It is quite odd that they replaced their departed drummer with a machine after the debut demo, and that actually intensified the sense of deliberate distance and grim misanthropic isolation in their music, but oddest of all is the incorporation of that typically wacky and somewhat gimmicky instrument, the theremin, into such a brutalist and dehumanised soundscape and making it sound not just in place but actively disturbing. Overall, the track is a considerable improvement on prior work: more involving, less rough and noisy for the sake of it, and creating a more consistent atmosphere.

Some way further outside the box, Australia's Estrangement triangulate somewhere between Neoclassical, Avantgarde and Death/Doom, throwing those influences together with a gloriously anarchic zestfulness that does its level best to defy description with mere words. 'Childlike Bewilderment' starts with a duet for cello and violin, accompanied by choral, almost operatic vocals, gradually feeding in raw primal growls, piano, flute, guitar and drums; first mating the deliberate pace of crashing percussive chords and searing guitar with lush symphonic tones and sweeps, then flirting with tranquility, before exploding into a frenzied, thrashing beast. Even there, eclectically, the massive guitar riffs at the heart of it sound like a transcription out of Mussorgsky's 'Night On Bald Mountain': an apocalyptic moment that somehow subsides into a peaceful, breath-drawing finale, complete with rippling bells. In many ways, it builds on the patterns and techniques established in last year's 'Belong Beneath' demo, but does so with a greater confidence, particularly in transition between the various elements. The feel of oceanic vastness and force is still there, but expanded upon: play this loud, and it feels like being hit by a perfect tsunami rising unexpectedly from a calm and playful sea, yet still - exultantly - weathering its furies. Bewilderment indeed, musically capturing the disconnect of that moment when blissful innocence collides full-on with the chaotic dissonance of reality, emphasised by the rough-edged and deliberately unpolished mix - but what a ride!

I say that Begräbnis provide the less outré of the two offerings, only inasmuch as they're on an established spectrum, albeit at the über-extreme end of it: but make no mistake, it's very much nasty, uncompromising music that conjures images of the strangest of J-Horror movies or even games, replete with strange unhuman noises and lurking dreadfulness whose quirky, arhythmic structures and abrupt shifts sometimes call to mind a sparser, more skeletal, Abstract Spirit. Estrangement, however, seem to have provided their own spectrum entirely, somewhere that may - just about - brush against the works of countrymen Virgin Black in places. Wildly creative, packed with raw emotion, and astonishingly individual, this may well be the single most instinctively appealing track I've heard all year. Frankly, I'd say it makes this EP essential, all on its own.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Reinlich Weisse Trauer
2. Childlike Bewilderment

Visit the Estrangement bandpage.

Duration : Approx. 19 minutes

Visit the Begräbnis bandpage.

Reviewed on 2014-11-05 by Mike Liassides
Aesthetic Death
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