I saw Downfall of Gaia headlining in 2015. It caught me out a bit as I didn’t really know the band but did find their murky representations interesting.
A gloomy tone, accompanied by hard-hitting and indistinct screams, welcome us to the album. The vocals on “Brood” are reminiscent of old Burzum. The guitar plays a scornful tune, isolated from the fast drumming and those echoing vocals. For me this doesn’t go anywhere. The remorseless black metal assault continues on “Woe”, a high energy instrumental. It’s melancholic in nature, as its title suggests. There is thunder and trailblazing but again without direction. Now “Ephemerol” brings us doom. There are haunting and echoing screams. “Ephemerol” is dangerous, soundtrack-like and even epic, a bit like early Omnium Gatherum. The track heightens to a crescendo and power-packed end. “Ephemerol Part II” follows: it is just a gloomy dirge, pointless. Normality resumes with the title track, which blasts away and suggests a faraway land. Unfortunately I didn’t find myself in the middle of it and therefore lapping up its intensity and turbulence. This was more of an objective description of a place I don’t want to be. “Atrophy” steps down and deepens but this is just a grey place. It picks up, and the assault becomes more feverish and to some extent epic, but there didn’t seem to be any point of reference for this misery. There is one final intense assault. The tension intensifies as “Petrichor” crawls along, before the album finishes inexplicably with a gloomy piano piece.
The trouble with this album is that the mood doesn’t change much, and when it does it’s not clear what we’re supposed to be feeling or imagining. It just bashes on regardless. This album is apparently about the dialogue between life or death but I didn’t get any sense of that from listening to it. Intense and harsh atmospheres are created but Atrophy doesn’t explode into a world to which I felt, voluntarily or otherwise, any attachment.
(6/10 Andrew Doherty)