There’s very often something primal about metal from south Rio Grande and beyond into South America that leaves some of their equivalents in other parts of the world feeling distinctly light. Take Majestic Downfall, for example, based in Querétaro, Mexico, which, on this latest release, combines all the necessary atmosphere to make a great doom album with the of anger and emotion of death metal into one giant slag heap. The band’s mastermind Jacobo Cordova has excelled himself this time around – shedding some of the more accessible melody more evident on previous releases and drilling instead into something far more visceral. Speaker-destroying bass lines, riffs saturated with melancholy and growled vocals that sound like curses to the heavens.
Majestic Downfall’s output has been as steady as it has been consistent and topped of with last year’s split release with The Slow Death that contained some of the band’s best works to date. But Cordova hasn’t so much topped that as much as crushed it underfoot with this latest earthshaking effort that scales new mountainous heights in his musical endeavour. Whether fans of previous releases will lap this up in the same way they have before, I’m not so sure. There’s plenty to get your teeth into. But things have definitely taken a darker, less forgiving turn here.
Take the album’s centrepiece ‘The Brick, The Concrete’ for example – a giant of a track that achieves pretty much everything you’d hope to hear from an album like this which has managed to find the sweet spot in the crossroads between doom and death metal – with the emphasis on death metal. The track provides an atmospheric peak that looks down from its vertiginous vantage point over a grim and foreboding world. ‘The Brick….’ is flanked by two very different aspects. The preceding track, Escape My Thought is a steady, thunderous climb through barren, windswept slopes while the following one, Doors, is like a sheer, rapid descent.
The final of the four main 10 to 15 minute tracks again shows off Majestic Downfall’s ability to fill every dark corner of the extended time available with reverberating light and shadow in all its plodding glory. In a recent interview he clocked Vanhelgd’s Relics of Sulphur Salvation and Zemial’s Nykta as two of his favourite albums of the last couple of years. I can definitely hear e4lements of both those – particularly the blackened atmospheres of Nykta. But the real win here is that Cordova seems to have achieved complete mastery over his sound – more of an ever-spreading soundscape than just track after track.
The effect, if you manage to give into the driving ebb and flow of the chugging riffs, is hypnotic. All the tracks are pretty much knitted together anyway but the divides are loosely there. Even so, it’s sometimes difficult to remember whether one has ended and another has begun. Atmosphere takes over – a testament to the crisp but, at the same time, absolutely filthy production as well as the song writing. As I say, it will be interesting to see how existing fans react to this descent into darkness. But I’m impressed with Cordova’s steroid-filled chest-beating death-doom. Powerful but emotionally confident and finessed at the same time. …When Dead is a dark and glorious epic – like a pilgrimage to the top of the world, to scream blue murder over the bloody mess that’s been made of it.
(8.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)