RMR covered My Silent Wake before, in their incarnation as a Doom Death Metal band. Their very bare-bone yet rough and emotional style always made us listen up and home in for a closer look. Damnatio Memoriae and There Was Death come to mind.
But sometimes some of these bands have alter egos, yet another unplugged plane of existence. And this band is one of them.
True, 2020 is – so far – full of pretty excellent newly forged metal albums. And that kept us busy until the damp fogs of fall started to cover the moist landscape. It is indeed only now that Ian Arkley’s newest lament bubbled back to the surface. Because ’tis nothing for the shiny summer months. It is a contemplative piece, full of broody melodies, ditties, and strange soundscapes. A stripped-down piece of doom, if there ever was one.
In a way, Damnum Per Saeculorum feels like this proverbial drop that falls into that silent lake and ripples outward. It is a quiet, meditative record. Not something I would ever expect from a hardcore metal outfit. An ambient, unplugged piece that often reminds me of bands like Heilung, Wardruna, or – again – Darkher with her weirdly quiet style.
All these bands created records that should probably never appear on a predominantly metal blog. Yet, some of them did. Because their tune fascinated us to no end. And let’s never forget that some metal styles are pretty much in cahoots with the darker realms of folk.
Damnum Per Saeculorum is for sure not an easily accessible record. You’ll need to immerse yourself in the tune and let it flow into you. This is when you will discover its many facets. This is no piece for the fast and furious.
It’s interesting how the record starts with medievally-themed tracks like Warhawks. This is – by the way – the most approachable of all the 15 songs on that album. The medieval route continues until Bacchanal peters out. And that is where Arfryn greets you with a steel-string guitar and some fairy-like melodies mainly on flutes.
This whole record indeed sports a very pronounced pagan flavor. And this builds itself on an expert arrangement that other earth-lore bands still desperately try to achieve. Indeed, those bands will often attempt to bludgeon you to death with monstrous in-your-face and overly ritualistic themes. Whereas My Silent Wake take a more frugal approach, yet one that actually has a tangible foundation in this world.
And whilst this, unfortunately, results in some overly simplistic song structures, the outcome is mainly pretty spectacular. Just take Of Loss and Regret, the strongest track on Damnum Per Saeculorum. It starts with this drone and tells the story of waters and streams. It then descends into this drowsily comforting chant that I found pretty haunting in quality.
Yet again, you’ll find a marked change in the last third of the record. That’s where shamanesque atmospherics and female interpretations take over. With menacing tunes like The Rhyme of Winters’ Children taking the forefront. And this is also where a drumset and some electric guitar is used to really drive this doom-laden atmosphere home.
But make no mistake, the record does not let you escape until the bitter end. The Mourning Earth – for instance – hooks you with this dreary monologue. Whereas Berceuse descends more into some sort of a premature death experience than the lullaby it portends to be. And this is expertly done, too, with the deliciously terrifying use of the piano. Yet another ditty we thought simple, yet it turned out to be complex.
You see, for the life of me, I cannot understand why Damnum Per Saeculorum released at the end of July of 2020. This is a record for autumnal sceneries, not the sunny weather of a hot summer. And sure enough, it made me immediately think of humid earth, grandiose old forests, dead leaves on the ground, and moss-covered rocks. And in between the colorful mushrooms, the small goblins and airy fairies go about their business whilst chanting their frightful tune.
In other words, Arkley’s newest album invokes a landscape of magick. But not a happy one. Instead, it is one filled with doom and damnation where the demons are never far away. And those have a tale to tell. Of fears and terrible events, past or present, and artfully wrapped into a hypnotic soundscape that oscillates between medieval themes and shaman-like droning. Just to stop you cold in present-day ambients and atmospherics.
But finally, Damnum Per Saeculorum truly is a fascinating record. One we had difficulties reemerging to reality from, once the last note seeped into the mossy bottom of this doom-infused pit.
Ed’s note: If you enjoyed this, why not kick it up a notch with something truly experimental?