Raspail is a very interesting project. Formed by former members of Novembre, Klimt 1918, Psychotic Despair and Room with a View, they describe “Dirge” pictorially and vividly: “the old rural landscape all around Rome, cherished by the Romantic poets, with its imposing ruins covered in ivy and climbing, under the black vault of the night sky”.
Anyone with a knowledge of Novembre will be used to the artistry and the painting of scenes through melancholic and dark music. The exact style is different of course but the symphonic ambience of the opening track “The Wanderer” leaves us in no doubt that this is going to be a similarly monstrous and sad affair. Big melancholic and eerie sounds wrap themselves around the doom-like structure. This is big and imposing. The vocal style is pure doom. The choir is haunting and uplifting. As a title “The Nymph’s Wood Hymn to the Rising Sun” just sounds mystical. Again there are eerie sounds whistling through the trees, as a funereal atmosphere strikes up. The growling vocalist enunciates slowly and sounds to be in despair. Beauty emerges from the slowly progressing and at times thunderous scene. “Vesevo” is a continuation of the weighty and reflective scene. The word “sorrow” is written right through this work and sums up the title track perfectly. After an ambient passage of whistling winds, a preferred theme of this album, the mood changes from calm into fire before returning to a more reflective sorrow. I really liked the cosmic undercurrent, which really adds a dimension to this album. There is a particularly woozy passage on “One Step More the Void”. Void-like it is. It is broken up by periodically crashing sounds and a post metal ring. Control and majesty develop into the following “We Should Not Grieve”. Grief however seems to be what it’s about. “Ver Sacrum” starts with one of those sad and rusty Novembre-type passages and continues in this vein save passages featuring the now familiar whistling sounds of nature. We’re now in shoegazing territory. The scene builds up, but slowly of course. “Ver Sacrum” ends with a quietly spoken sinister piece, the significance of which I didn’t really get. It is the cue for more plodding doom. The scream and the growling vocal raise the level of morbid intensity. “Et In Arcadio Ego” then plunges into dreamy doomland. The customary roar breaks it up momentarily. The desolate scene and whistling winds return before a further fiery, sweeping and measured soundscape takes us to the end.
Listening to this album as a whole, I found it was depressive and bleak rather than lofty. It’s the rich combination of sounds, which make this album so atmospheric and vast. As is the way with doom albums, there is a constant pattern in the air, but Raspail do well to ensure that their depiction of emotional moods transforms and is worked against a series of outer-worldly sounds, even if it is all in the monotone framework of devastating sadness.
(7.5/10 Andrew Doherty)