It’s no rare occurrence wading through press releases and being promised albums in a similar vein as lots of favourite artists and neither is the disappointment of listening to them and finding very little similar to what you had hoped. Not so here though as this album constructed painstakingly ten years after demo offerings by Camille Giradeau of Smohalla and Stagnant Waters does exactly as proposed and proves a “necromantic attempt to keep the fire of some long-time missing aesthetics burning – and therefore honour them.” Total authenticity is at heart and as I sit down to write about this the forces align as it is at the same time I see some photos by Trine + Kim design showing the first ever photo of Ved Buens Ende and heralding their highly anticipated return. The reason I mention them is that they are one such outfit that Dreams Of The Drowned are very much honouring and the very organic approach formulated by their demo and album over 20 years ago is quickly apparent here and what was written in waters is very much alive.
After an eerie synthesized start on ‘Dream I’ the motif of which crops up strikingly again further down the album that nascent sound of the past comes flooding back in on ‘Conciliabules’ and we certainly feel as though a clandestine meeting of minds is taking place. Haunting melody and thicker than tar bass definition bring an otherworldly feel of avant-garde Norwegian strangeness to the fore. We are very much in a place inhabited by ghosts and the maudlin vocals warbling in the backdrop accompany the musicianship perfectly. If you worship at the font of early VBE, Fleurety, Manes, Beyond Dawn and Virus this will definitely send a shiver down your spine. Clattering away it takes off dashing through the forests of old and as the PR states attempts to reconnect with them and is very much at the heart of these ages past and it is wonderful to find ourselves lost in them once more. Arcane guitar lines bristle and seethe, the plummeting riffs of ‘The Revolutionary Dead’ particularly wonderful. By 4th track ‘Real And Sound’ the tribal thwack and malicious damage of other proffered gods Killing Joke come to the fore lurking out the primeval swamp and bringing memories of new days and fire dances in all their pagan might. What one should not be worried about here is an imitation of former glories it may well be profound but this is not anything in the way of musical plagiarism, more in the spirit of and developed and formulated with Camille’s obvious love and understanding of the form.
We continue through the stygian and dank gloom of the doom-laden ‘Vieilles Pierres’ exploring mansions and castles which along with a statement saying these songs are “inhabited by European witchcraft, atypical mental states” makes perfect sense. The strange and disconcerting dismal tones of what sounds like a long dead clown’s accordion fits in perfectly. I love the central melody on ‘Crawl Of Concretes’ it is airy and lofty and brings visions of a bird of prey swooping over the forest and surveying its domains, it also strangely sounds like it could have escaped a Mastodon song but blackness and a rapidly approaching storm is never far away. This arrives with dashing sheets of bitter rain furiously driven down by the scattershot drumming approach of ‘Danced’ deluging the listener in its heady depths. The cascading riff work it develops into are pure psyche prog madness and I can’t shift visions of a demented Jaz Coleman stomping along to them like a mad ‘dancing’ jester, perfect! Another surprise is to come in the form of a cover and a half as not only is ‘Midnattskogens Sorte Kjerne’ a classic Dødheimsgard number but it’s here vocalised by original progenitor Aldrahn.
Delivering everything it promised and stacks more this is nothing short of a triumph and an album I simply haven’t been able to put down since it unassumingly arrived in my heaving inbox. Released digitally now and physically via Cult Of Nine Records on June 15th this is a fascinating album that has proved that the past is very much alive and gloriously so.
(9/10 Pete Woods)