Aldebaran, Embracing the Lightless Depths: Reaching into a Pervasive Void

Posted in Reviews on July 13th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

As anyone who’s ever dealt with it either themselves or through a loved one knows, there’s a huge difference between sadness and depression. Real, clinical depression isn’t just about being miserable. There’s a physical, chemical response that takes place in the body, and it’s not just manifested in someone’s mood, but their every bit of perspective is tainted by it. The world feels like standing in a room full of boxes and all of them are labeled in block letters: NO. Embracing the Lightless Depths (Profound Lore), the second album from Portland, Oregon, death-doomers Aldebaran, is similarly minded, such that even the three shorter ambient “Occultation” pieces that surround the two massive slabs which form the crux of the album sound entrenched in an overarching and overwhelming negativity. Even where there are no drums, there is plod. Their second full-length following 2007’s Dwellers in Twilight, splits with Zoroaster and Unearthly Trance and last year’s single-song Buried Beneath Aeons EP (there were other splits before the first album as well, with Sod Hauler and Rue), Embracing the Lightless Depths pulls Aldebaran into a Lovecraftian void of which, if the title is to be believed, the band are well aware. Topping out at 66 minutes, the album is a terror unto itself, structurally fascinating and unrepentantly challenging: a test that most listeners will likely fail. It’s hard to sit through front to back, and that’s obviously the band’s intent – the alienation as mirror of the alienated.

Longer songs “Forever in the Dream of Death” (24:58) and “Sentinel of a Sunless Abyss” (29:38) – were it not for opener “Occultation of Hali’s Gates,” I might think Aldebaran had shunned the possessive form altogether, so many “of”s show up in their titles – emerge from out of ambient murk and are never quite separate from it. Vocals, handled alternately by guitarist Todd Janeczek, bassist Josh Banke and drummer Tim Call (also of labelmates The Howling Wind) are growls exclusively, which only adds to the overall inaccessibility of their approach, though the guitars of Janeczek and Kody Keyworth (also of the live incarnation of Wolves in the Throne Room) show an immediate penchant for carrying a melody. They do so on “Occultation of Hali’s Gates” (3:22), which starts Embracing the Lightless Depths quietly, setting the atmosphere in which “Forever in the Dream of Death” lurches forth. Chiefly, the first of the album’s two longer pieces is immersive. You hear it less than it inflicts itself on you. Call stands up to the difficult task of giving the song some kind of ground and pace – without him, you’d almost believe it didn’t have one – and the mood remains consuming in its darkness for the duration. Shortly before 16 minutes in, the guitars guide the way through a softer, whisper-vocal section, but the pummel resumes soon enough, and though the guitar leads in the final minutes might lead one to think there’s some kind of hope – ever, at all – that too is swallowed in the low monstrousness of the distorted finish.

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Buried Treasure and Redscroll in Autumn, Pt. 2

Posted in Buried Treasure on October 28th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Moments ago, as I was trying to think of a headline for this post, I recalled that I’d visited Redscroll Records in Wallingford, Connecticut, last year around this time. Creature of habit that I am, the date on that post is Oct. 25, 2010. Here we are, a year and three days later and I’m chronicling pretty much the same trip. Surprisingly, there was no band overlap. Small favors, I guess.

It had been or at least felt like a while since I did a good round of caution-and-common-sense-to-the-wind record shopping, which I find is good for the soul, and especially since my prior visit to the store had come up empty, I was stoked to make out pretty good this time. You can probably see the stack in the picture above, but in case you don’t feel like clicking to enlarge it, here’s the rundown:

Aldebaran, Buried Beneath Aeons
Cable, Cable
Desert Sessions, Vol. I/Vol. II
Desert Sessions, Vol. III/Vol. IV
Dove, Dove
Grayceon, All We Destroy
Orange Goblin, Time Travelling Blues
Patton Oswalt, Finest Hour
Reverend Bizarre, Death is Glory… Now!
Sunride, Magnetizer
VA, Judge Not…
Wooden Shjips, Dos
Wolves in the Throne Room, Celestial Lineage

Of those, I already own the Desert Sessions, Dove and Orange Goblin records — but I still have my reasons for buying each. The Orange Goblin was used, and as I looked at it on the shelf, I discovered it was the Japanese version of the record, with their cover of Trouble‘s “Black Shapes of Doom” for a bonus track. That cover originally appeared on the Bastards Will Pay tribute, and since I’ve never had any luck tracking down a copy of that (it’s in my canon of daily eBay searches), I figured all the more excuse to get the import on the cheap.

The Dove, on the other hand, is probably the least reasonable of the repeat offenses. Where the Desert Sessions stuff was priced new, it was also like $12 a pop, and screw it, if I’m already spending money, I’ll hit that up. I looked so hard for those CDs the first time around, I don’t mind having doubles. For the Dove disc, though, there really is no argument. It was there, it was used, and I bought it. It’s out of print, and I might use it in a trade or something at some point — hey, if anyone wants to switch it for that Trouble tribute, drop a line — but beyond that, it was an impulse and an excuse to revisit the album from the Floor offshoot, which I hadn’t heard in years.

Grayceon was one of two discs I knew I wanted to pick up going into the trip — the other was Rwake, which Redscroll was out of — and since I’ve had those songs stuck in my head for the last month, I was glad to have the full version of the album to sate that. That wasn’t used, but it is now. The Wolves in the Throne Room is also their latest record, which I had every intent of reviewing but never got around to, but only had a disc and top liner for. There’s always one or two tracks on their albums that justifies a purchase, and now I can take my time finding out which ones those are on Celestial Lineage. I don’t feel as bad for not reviewing it if I go out and buy the record.

I bought Sunride‘s Magnetizer (1998, Boundless Records) because of a discussion on the forum of the worst stoner rock albums ever. Not that it’s mentioned in there, but Sea of Green is, and I got the names mixed up in my head. I had wanted to buy it just to hear what the worst stoner rock ever sounded like. As Magnetizer isn’t even close to the worst stoner rock I’ve ever heard, I can’t help but feel like I inadvertently won out.

The Wooden Shjips I got because I need to review their new album, West, for work and wanted something to compare it to. It was used, as was the Underdogma Records compilation, Judge Not…, which proved yet again that I don’t like comps until they’re out of print and desirable for their obscurity. I don’t remember the last time I heard Ironboss (guns don’t kill people, they do), so I’ll take it, and with Gammera, Pale Divine, early The Quill and Puny Human on there, all the better. Two discs of heavy rock I didn’t own prior. Six bucks.

Buying Cable in Connecticut had some oddball novelty to me, and the 1997 comp of their early tracks was used and is raw as hell, so that was a yes, and I didn’t even know Patton Oswalt had a new record, but there it was. Since on his last special, he was talking all about his wife being pregnant, I figured this would be his “I have a kid now” material (every comic has it), and sure enough, it is. Still good. The Reverend Bizarre and Aldebaran discs were impulse buys — I grabbed the Aldebaran with all the forethought of snatching a pack of Reese’s on the way out of the grocery store — but reckless abandon is no fun if it’s not actually reckless, so there you go.

The Patient Mrs. — bless her heart — had come in a few moments prior to collect me so we could make our way back south to Jersey, but as we were leaving, the dudes behind the counter informed that they’ll be doing a special Black Friday sale post-Thanksgiving, opening at 6AM with markdowns on new and used CDs and vinyl — which, at this point, takes up a good deal of the room they have. Turns out I’ll be up that way for the holiday, so if I’m not all drowned out in vino and tryptophan, I may just make that happen for myself. Seems like it could be fun, anyway.

More info on that and the store is here, if you’re interested. I’ll spare you the lecture on preserving independent record-buying culture, because I think you probably know it by now, but anyway, they do good work.

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