Saturday, 24 July 2010

Dysperium - Dysperium (2009) 82/100.

And so begins my epic journey through the various sub-genres of metal as I check out the numerous bands across the globe signed to the up-and-coming label Frostscald Records. Dysperium are my first stop-over of this journey which will take me all over the world. Dysperium are a two-man black/folk hybrid from Oregon in the United States of America. Oregon seems to be a haven for metal bands with the area of Portland playing host to many big hitters. Although this band are relatively obscure, there are a number of people cluing into their wonderful style of mixing black and folk, as well as dabbling into other genres like doom and heavy metal. As you can probably tell from this brief description, Dysperium’s self-titled full-length debut is a wide ranging album with lots of layered facets to their music. One song will focus on the mesh of black and folk with a doomier style of singing -- through the medium of melancholic growls -- whilst other songs focus more on the folksy approach through clean acoustics with which every plucking of the ancient strings can be heard clearly. This is also the case when it comes to the expansive, experimental bass, as shown on songs like ‘VI’. The bassist shows a lot of flair on this album, in fact and his performance is one to keep an ear out for.

I’ve read sources suggesting that this American act are like what Ulver would have been if they had carried on pioneering through the metal scene. Whilst I do agree that elements remind me of Ulver’s glorious metal days, like the Garm-esque chanted vocals which occasionally find their way to the top of the soundscapes, as on songs like ‘II’ and the warm acoustics on songs like ‘III’, Dysperium are far too individualistic to be strongly compared with any other band, including the mighty Ulver and their trilogy of black-meets-folk music in their early days. Dysperium’s album, unlike Ulver’s two primary metal albums, is never quite as extreme though. Songs like ‘IV’ are a good representation of this as, although it starts with a dark, doomier atmosphere, it soon descends into light folksy musicianship as the acoustics come out to play. Of course, as with all Dysperium songs, the portrayal never stays the same for prolonged periods of time as the song soon develops into a mighty mesh of black and doom with the wonderful bass work shining through beneath the layers of harsh vocals.

As with most elements on this multi-purpose album, the vocals twist and turn at every opportunity, providing a number of small shocks along the way as they rasp, growl and solemnly sing their way the piece in the company of acoustics and slow, lighter sections of instrumentation which all suggest the album is perhaps less heavy than it tries to showcase itself as. Again, ‘IV’ is a terrific example of this as the guitars feel somewhat unsatisfying when they’re playing straight-up doom metal anthems and even when the song branches out to produced layered guitar features, with a solo bursting into life part-way through the song. The softer elements are, again, the part of the album which truly enhances it, making it feel more unique and interesting. The way in which Dysperium tend to interweave the soft vocals in with the repetitious elements of the riffing and drum patterns is a nice touch, it gives the album an elevated feel in terms of its emotional capacity and strength. Emotionally speaking, this isn’t an album I feel too attached to because of what it does to me emotionally, but I appreciate the instrumentation and skill that has gone into crafting such an album.

The song writing isn’t especially unique as bands of this nature have existed since the early to mid 1990’s and the more mainstream types like Agalloch also produce similar music to Dysperium, but this band certainly does show a lot more adventure than the musicians’ other project, Typhus, a raw black metal band with typical themes. With the addition of songs like ‘V’, I am reminded of Ulver’s folk inspired albums as this song features a lone acoustic playing hollowly against the backdrop of entrancing cleanly chanted vocals. This song feels almost spiritual and also reminds me of bands like Chile’s Uaral, who also opt for acoustic-based folk music meshed in with melancholic doom akin, at times, to even the likes of Katatonia during their early days, or perhaps October Tide, especially when songs like ‘VI’ slows down and allows the soothing rhythms of the drums to wash over us and the vocals are cleanly spoken over affective instrumentation. Given that these two musicians are also members of Typhus, an unrelenting raw black metal band, I never would have expected such a lush album to be created by their hands and minds. This is a very good debut by another Frostscald band.

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