Slow, V – Oceans: Drawn by the Ebb

Posted in Reviews on November 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

slow v oceans

Belgium’s Slow isn’t the first one-man outfit to wade into the aural cess of funeral doom metal by any means, but it goes in particularly resonant fashion. Helmed by multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and recording engineer Déhá Amsg — whose lengthy pedigree of projects includes Clouds, El Camino, Yhdarl and We all Die (Laughing), among a slew of others — the band’s name is properly written as the all-caps acronym SLOW, standing for ‘Silence Lives Out/Over Whirlpool,’ which was also the subtitle of the first full-length I from the project in 2009. The five-track/57-minute V – Oceans is the latest release, issued by GS Productions earlier in 2017 and picked up by Italian imprint Code666 for wider distribution, and it is a gloriously grueling affair.

Funeral doom has never been and will never be for everyone. By its very nature, it is an extreme form of music. With Slow, the pieces on V – Oceans each top 10 minutes, and the only time there’s much of an escape from the ultra-lumbering, churning tempo is in the 14-minute centerpiece “Déluge,” which veers eventually from its piano/keyboard intro into blastbeats. Otherwise, songs like “Ténèbres” and opener “Aurore” carry forth a wrought emotionalism through largely indecipherable echoing growls and dramatic but not necessarily theatrical arrangements, placed in such a way next to each other as to evoke an overarching linearity to which a lyrical narrative is also set — the theme, of course, drawing on the image of the ocean.

This also isn’t exactly new ground for the style — Germany’s Ahab and defunct UK practitioners Undersmile spring readily to mind, but there are many other examples of groups donning watery themes in funeral doom — but the manner in which Slow takes up this charge is emblematic of what distinguishes Déhà‘s work on the whole throughout the album. In the case of the lyrics, it is the specificity of the imagery put to the songs, the thread of plot that gets woven across “Aurore,” “Ténèbres,” “Déluge,” “Néant” and closer “Mort” that helps make it so immersive, just as it is the nuanced depths of the mix and the intricately balanced arrangements of guitar, keys, bass, drums, vocals, etc. that take place therein that so effectively complement the aquatic mindset.


For the first time with the band, Déhà brought in an outside party — Lore Boeykens, with whom he also founded the Ter Ziele blackened doom duo in 2016 — to work with him on lyrics, and the results are stunning and evocative. The first line of “Aurore” is “Moving into deep waters,” and in a way, that’s the story right there. That’s what’s happening in that song and all that follow, whether it’s the hypnotic undulations that cap “Déluge” or the flourish of spoken work in that song and “Ténèbres” before it or the patient unfolding and foreboding piano that starts the dirge march of “Néant” after. It is no coincidence that the tracklisting moves from “Aurore,” translating from French to ‘dawn,’ to “Néant” (‘nothingness’) and “Mort” (‘death’), as that is precisely where the story of V – Oceans winds up. It is a drowning told through poetry.

As beautiful, serene and resolved as it is sonically brutal and punishing, V – Oceans lets Déhà and Boeykens explore this resounding bleakness of spirit with a conceptual splendor, and as “Néant” resigns itself with the lines, “These dark seas now feel almost comfortable/I give in/May this darkness absorb me,” there’s a swell of keyboard melody that has an almost choral effect (just past the 10-minute mark), as if reaffirming the decision that’s been made. This is a crucial moment for Slow thematically, and perhaps the apex of the album, but to call it that is an oversimplification of the work, which is clearly meant to be taken in its entirety and experienced for the fullness of the headphone-worthy wash it presents. “Mort” caps with a post-death vision of one’s body in the water — “Here my remains drift for everyone to see/This wreck/My failure/Begone with the ebb” — following a description of the undersea voices that lured the protagonist/speaker into the sea in the first place set to chugging guitar, and another choral swell to answer that of “Néant” prior arises at about four minutes in to mark the shift into the final phase of V – Oceans, which stands out for its multi-tiered sense of weight and for the sense of conclusion it brings to the proceedings in their entirety.

I do not know how V – Oceans was composed, i.e., whether it was written as a single song or as individual cuts that Déhà and Boeykens subsequently worked to tie together in both the plot and instrumental presentation, but among the album’s most prevalent features is an overwhelming feeling of completeness, of a front-to-back arc — beginning, middle, end — that concludes in heartrending fashion in its final chapter. Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise coming from an project that’s been around for a decade and released a full-length on every odd year like clockwork since 2009, but it is as realized in concept as in execution, and while it may not be groundbreaking in the grander scheme of the genre, it nonetheless brings forward the elements that can make funeral doom at its best so affecting.

Slow, V – Oceans (2017)

Slow on Thee Facebooks

Slow on Bandcamp

Code666 on Thee Facebooks

Code666 website

Tags: , , , , ,

Negura Bunget: If Brilliant Blackened Folk Metal Falls in the Forest…

Posted in Reviews on July 20th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

The 2006 release by Romanian folk-inspired black metallers Negura Bunget, titled simply Om, was a landmark for those who heard it. Up and down, the record was praised for its masterful balance of influences, its groundbreaking genre-defiance, and the fact that, where so much “folk metal” is goofy beyond repair, Negura Bunget seemed able to affect a serious and dark atmosphere that was neither laughable nor steeped in black metal cliché (some would argue the two aren’t mutually exclusive).

The story goes that after Om, the central parties responsible for Negura Bunget – namely multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Hupogrammos Disciple’s (real name Edmond Karban), guitarist Sol Faur and drummer Negru (real name Gabriel Mafa) – had a falling out, and the band effectively broke up in 2009, only to be revived by Negru alone, with a new lineup, whose first album together is Vîrstele Pamîntului (Aural Music/Code666). Joining Negru in this new Negura Bunget are guitarists Corb (also vocals and dulcimer) and Spin, bassist/flutist Gadinet, keyboardist Inia Dinia and vocalist/percussionist aGer (real name Ageru Pamîntului), who’s been in the band since 2003 and also handles pan flute and sundry folk instrumentation I’m not even going to pretend to know the first thing about.

In a way, it’s silly to expect this lineup of Negura Bunget to be able to top the majesty of a record like Om, since Vîrstele Pamîntului is more like a band’s first album than it is their fifth – though it should be noted that Negura Bunget’s Maiestrit, which showed up earlier this year, is not a new full-length, but rather a re-recording of 2000 opus Maiastru Sfetnic, so technically speaking this isn’t the first time we’re hearing this new incarnation of the band, just the first time we’re hearing them perform new material. In any case, to think these players will be able on their first outing to stand up to the fully realized vision that was Om is nonsensical. Rather, in listening to Vîrstele Pamîntului, one hopes Negru will be able to get his band to that point again, or even surpass it in terms of style and atmosphere.

Read more »

Tags: , , , ,