Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Bosque - Passage (2009) 56/100.

Total Holocaust Records are pretty reliable when it comes to signing up-and-coming talents. Usually, if I notice a band is signed to their label, I’ll rest assured that they’ve got to be doing something right, but when it comes to this Portuguese funeral doom metal band Bosque, I’m not so sure. This debut full-length, entitled ‘Passage’, leaves me feeling pretty unsure about how I feel about the record in general. I listened to ‘Erasure’, the first song on the album, and was hooked in by its cleaner passages, but there’s a disjointed feel to the song and although this is a good start to the album, the plight of the band seems set in stone as the rest of the songs fail to live up to the expectations that this opening song has amassed. When it comes to funeral doom, you’ve got to expect minimalism, but Bosque do implement some sense of adventure by splicing up their soundscapes with lighter passages which reveal intense emotions behind the surface of the material, which has a very under-produced feel to it with static washing over the listener given the harsh distortion of the layered guitars. These aspects aren’t what we should be watching closely for however.

Funeral doom is becoming more and more adventurous I find. Bands like The Liquescent Horror are trying to forge new meanings for the sub-genre which has been depleted by a lack of truly worthy artists. Although I still think of The Liquescent Horror as being largely mediocre, they offer something different to the scene which it hasn’t seen before. This is something which opens up the door for fellow funeral doom pioneers to slink through and start inspiring others themselves. Although ‘Passage’ isn’t all that different from the traditional style of funeral doom with its heavily repetitious mind set and various other traditional factors, it does do a few things differently and this deviation from the standard is what makes ‘Passage’ a relative hit amongst funeral doom fans. I had anticipated this album for a long time. It actually took me a number of months to finally track down and though the expectations were never quite met, I’m still glad I got the chance to hear this band for the first time as they’re raved about on the funeral doom scene as being one of the better underground acts.

Being a one man band is usually a difficult task for most people, but funeral doom doesn’t exactly require much in the way of skill or technical prowess. It does require a sense of vision, but with the stale state of the sub-genre at the moment, it isn’t difficult for any average Joe to seem like they’re tried real hard to make something worthwhile. This album uses clean vocals, for example, on songs like ‘Fields of Light’ to eradicate a sense of predictability and this gives Bosque a more expansive feel, despite the fact that the vocals are a (REALLY) distant element of the atmosphere and the instrumentation alongside it is still very obscure and rigid. The drums, for example, are very basic. Unlike most funeral doom bands, Bosque use a lighter shade of drums. They don’t pound on in the foreground, but they’re still accessible in the distance. In fact, the whole album feels very mysterious and distant from its listener due to the highlighting of ambient textures, rather than the showcasing of steadfast funeral doom material. ‘Candles’ is also a good representative of this as, after several minutes, the heavier, impacting instrumentation washes away and leaves the ambiance for the listener to melancholically dwell on.

The structures of each of the songs are relatively the same and don’t inspire much, but they are different enough to form some sort of intrigue in me. The ambiance of the album is the most pressing matter with the usual forces of funeral doom, such as the heavy pounding of the drums, the growled vocals and the repetitious guitars, being somewhat relaxed. Strangely, the artwork is a good representation of the material on offer. Notice how there is more white than darker colours? Well, that’s how it is with the instrumentation. There are more lighter passages on offer than darker ones and, at first, it completely threw me off. The introduction to ‘Behind’ being a good example of how this operates. The chanted clean vocals are mesmerising alongside the clean guitars, which are beautifully layered beneath the resonate vocals. Elements like this on tracks like ‘Behind’ appear as charming, not something I’d normally expect of funeral doom. Of course, this is only a short interlude, but these elements are actually placed within the “regular” songs, but because of their extended lengths, this short song feels out-of-place initially when, in actual fact, it fits right in. This is a decent album, but so minimalistic that it won’t ever be played on repeat.

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