These are bands that take the notion of doom on its deathly bed of anxiety to the absolute next level. And we are not quite sure that those can really be beaten. At the very least, any new contender will be up against this formidable bulwark of sorrow and pain. One that can hardly be vanquished.
Or can it?
Now, here we have the Dutch band Officium Triste proclaiming The Death of Gaia on their newest record. That’s one helluva title right there. And it whets one’s appetite to listen to what is on offer.
If the theme takes its cues from the woes of climate change or other considerations, we cannot say. But to slam Mother Earth onto your tear-drenched flags and let her rip is one bold move. I give them that.
In a way, their tune resembles Mariana’s Rest with a pretty solid taste of the mid-tempo Melodic Death Metal of Insomnium. But the band smothers this brand of Doom Death Metal quite artfully in an abundance of omnipresent, somber riffs and subdued solos, a wealth of string instruments, and other acoustics. This mighty funeral power solemnly marches forward until the demise of the earth is finally consummated.
All of that builds itself on a sort of a split personality, where the record sometimes does not quite know what it wants to be. An operatic experience or a Death Metal masterpiece. A fine balance that the band – at certain moments in the record – did not quite chisel out finely enough.
Yet, The Death of Gaia does contain its pretty outstanding moments.
Like the very first ominous track, The End is Nigh with its pointedly weeping strings and sad wails. Or the often somewhat progressive taste of some parts of the record. Vaguely reminiscent of what Wilderun just produced with a hint of Death is Liberty. For that, you’ll need to move no further than Shackles and its ever-recurring theme.
We also appreciated the inclusion of female vocals into the string of deathly growls, starting with The Guilt. This adds some much-needed spice into this tastefully progressive tune of cathedral, stately riffing.
You see, The Death of Gaia feels like a river of grim, yet strangely dignified melodies built on comfortable rumblings of Death Metal growls. Together with all those riffs and solos, plus subdued progressive elements as part of that mighty funeral parade. A record that flows down that mountain of grief in a stately manner. Until it breaches on that dark ocean of eternity called Hades that even Styx one day must meet.
Whilst we enjoyed the wilier moods and atmospheric soundscapes of the piece, Officium Triste created a record that is almost too polished for its own good. No real surprises, no hard edges to speak of, just a theme-driven flow of finely elaborated tracks. All of that jazz floats downriver, pretty much on an even keel.
And for once the theme and its implications may very well work in the disfavor of its creator. Because it positively perpetuates this soberly grave delivery of slow-marching downcast tunes. So much so that all of these tracks kind of flow into each other of much more of the same.
In other words, here we have a tune that you can take to a point, before your thoughts start to wander elsewhere. So, The Death of Gaia truly sports a lot of allure and it is – indeed – intricately forged. And this is a true tribute to the 25+ years of experience this band brings to the mixing table.
But was this record really able to captivate this crew to the very bitter end? Like some of this year’s outstanding Doom Death Metal or Progressive Metal offerings so convincingly did?
No, not quite.
Ed’s note: Fancy something similar? Try Celestial Season. But don’t forget yer tissues.