Psychedelic gloom and doom outfit 11 Paranoias blew me away last time I covered them when they unleashed the rather phenomenal and reality distorting ‘Stealing Fire From Heaven’ back in the tail-end of 2014 and having experienced them live since that release, they truly have cemented themselves in my opinion as one of the ‘must hear’ doom bands round at the moment. Forsaking the Iommi-styled riffery and groove and instead plunging into the more despair and crushingly heavy territories that some of us who usually lean to the riff side tend to forget. Without wasting further time, let us see what the spiritually important vessel for this dream world holds… and more importantly, is it a dream or a nightmare?
Well, to answer the question above, the opening track “Peripheral Metamorphosis” shows that it is only a dream for those who enjoy darkness. For the rest, it is definitely a nightmare. Not a nightmare as in it being shit… More a nightmare in the sense of the bleak and despair filled soundscape it lays out with its colossal fuzzed out heaviness and hazy vocals which echo through the power of the dark, pounding music. “Destroying Eyes” which follows continues in this trend until half way through when it suddenly explodes to life with a vibrant and slightly uplifting groove feel which completely u-turns the feel of the track and the album so far and acts as an eye opener and a timely reminder that even the hideously slow, dark and heavy can kick things up a few gears!
Fading into static, Destroying eyes ends in total silence, paving the way for the slow paced and rather gentle “Avallaunius” to come in. With its Om like bassline in the beginning, backed with subtle trippy guitar fills, all laced with a very dark bluesy-jazz like freetime feel. The faint vocals hidden in the background, barely audible have that hairs on the back of your neck tingling effect, especially with their chant like sound and drone but that all comes to an end at 3:10 when it sparks to life. Thick fuzz, pounding bass and drums and vocals which are prominent but still tucked between the layers of instruments ringing out. Keeping the slow and lumbering pace of the intro, it has that distorting effect on the ambience it has created, both helping to settle after the fast paced ending of its predecessor, and unnerving effect which the band are known for.
“Mutus Liber” brings the haunting feel with its slow bassline intro which soon distorts to a swirling mess of unsettling samples, feedback and thunderously heavy drum and guitars which drone away, all climaxing in a mess of feedback, tortured scream like samples and effects swirling round, feeding back on themselves before silence descends again, paving the way for “Meditation On The Void” which on name alone, seems to promise surrealism in what it holds. With a trippy bassline, clever sample use and an odd drum patterns, it brings back the mesmerising feel. The whispered vocals and surging bass fills help keep things interesting and the overall ambience and feel of the track as it flows, speeding up and increasing the pressure of the intensity it exerts is spot on. The way the effects surge and become more prominent as the track progresses and the way the tucked away vocal and sample effects become more frantic towards the end as everything races captures the band at their best – showing how the slow and hypnotic feel can be subtly shattered without you even realising what is happening till it’s too late.
“Phantom Pyramid” rolls in slowly as you would expect and it has a warmer feel to it initially. Whether this gentler approach with its warm bass tone and subtle wah and delay soaked guitars is just smoke and mirrors to hide a darker force in the music is up for debate, but the pseudo-Om like delivery is good at creating that safe haven feel in this musical prison the band have created. Haunting vocals linger with plenty of reverb, gracefully augmenting the melodic bassline and for nearly six minutes, there is a reprieve from the insanity, but once again the darkness takes hold. Distorting, becoming more complex rhythmically from a percussive point of view and darker in an instrumental and vocal approach, it lumbers forwards with its crushing drone and almost Silent Hill like siren noise looming overhead which persists until the end which shifts into a feedback drone before the closing track, “Milk Of Amnesia” comes in hard and harsh. Sonically similar to the previous track, it seems more like a reprieve than a separate song, but the presence of more vocal work and a more animated pace and delivery do make it stand out on its own and offer a fitting end to an album which could best be described as a hypnotic and malevolent musical force, perhaps making those uncomfortable with this sonic experimentation want to acquire the substance this closing track is named after to rid themselves of the experience over them.
In all, “Reliquary For A Dream World” is a solid psychedelic doom album. It has that uncanny ability to make you actually feel intimidated by the sounds it contains and it plays on your mind in ways most other doom releases cannot due to the clever use of vocal layering, dynamic deliveries and captivating drones. To me, it’s not as strong as “Stealing Fire From Heaven”, but at the same time, it is strong enough to be considered a dark horse given how this is the time when people usually begin to formulate their end of year lists. So keep that in mind as you chance picking up the reliquary and debate peering inside to see what it contains.