I think it’s fair to call Aesthetic Death a bit of a niche label and they are certainly one who go for quality over quantity as far as their releases are concerned. This time they have gone and unearthed a debut album from a now defunct Danish band which originally was released independently back in 2013. With this in mind the chances are very high that you have not heard of Whelm before and hopefully this will give the album a push to more of us that like our doom, long, slow and hard. Taking the album name from a 1919 poem by Yates and using some fantastic historical cover art one gets a bit of a highbrow feeling before even pressing play here. Once I had my first taste of the music everything went up a notch and it was obvious that this band was one well worth discovering.
Starting off with opener ‘Tann Døkka Jørð’ weeping guitar lines remind a little of My Dying Bride and the hoary vocals both Esoteric and Ahab. As for the Esoteric reference it’s not surprising as this was mixed and mastered by Greg Chandler himself. There are two vocalists though and some calmer clean ones contrast the rough and rugged growls here as this short track moves seamlessly into ‘The Brazen Bull’ making it seem like one long continuous number designed to submerge you into its funereal depths. Things rise getting more indignant and urgently as far as the vocals are concerned with the drums thumping slowly but more powerfully and guitars spiralling away and wrapping themselves tightly around everything else. A real sludge laden feel comes into play with ‘From The Trenches Of Perception’ and the vocals trade off each other with a bleak and mournful feeling exuding from the music. It’s taken the funeral edge off the doom a bit but it’s no less miserable in construction. ‘Perpetual Blindness’ adds some real rich glistening guitar parts that almost sound like a dulcimer is being played and musically although layering up hefty repetitive parts this is far from formulaic stuff
It’s the real centrepiece of the album that really took this to a different place and an unexpected one for though. The epic 12 minute Delphine La Laurie named after a Louisiana socialite and serial killer has a melody running through it that is slow and sinister and to me very reminiscent of what I love about some of the more orthodox black metal bands from Sweden such as Dissection and Watain. It’s got real atmosphere and tension running through it, downright creepy as it stalks away no doubt much like its subject matter. With that it makes a change from Erzsébet Bathory too and made for some interesting reading. ‘Ghosts In The Undergrowth’ stomps roughshod and adds some spoken word parts making it all the more chilling. This is a hefty number with the vocals roaring and growling in equal measures as the drum beat and bass plod dangerously along crushing all in their path and building up to a mighty climax. Last but by no means least it’s left for Event Horizon to conclude this beast of an album which it does at first in a much mellower post rock style and mood before naturally taking time to evolve into a suitably dramatic finale.
I have no idea why this band apparently called it a day after this originally came out and it’s a shame they did as I’m sure they had more ideas between them. One thing is sure this is both a very good debut and swansong all in one Whelm left me suitably overwhelmed! Well worth the £5 the label are charging for it.
(8/10 Pete Woods)