“Remember, O man, that dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return.”
Except for the cyclic part, the Catholic church has got it all wrong, of course. We are mostly made of water, not dust. The water, or the ocean, to be more precise, is where all life on earth originated. And into the water, or rather the deep sea, is where Markov Soroka (the multitalented individual behind names like Tchornobog, Krukh and Aureole) is taking us with his project Drown. The timing for the band’s funeral doom couldn’t be better. There is a brand-new disease sweeping the planet scaring the shit out of people, putting whole countries into panic mode, and reminding each and every one of us of our mortality and the mortality of our loved ones.
Drown is a project that has been active for quite some time now, though not always under the same name. Originally known as Slow, the band released their first album Unsleep in 2014. Thematically, it wanted to give a sonic representation of drowning. “Enter the body of a man who takes his own life by drowning,” the band’s bandcamp page says. The album contained five tracks, numbered Drowned I to Drowned V, the last track having the subtitle Mariana and hinting at the direction where this is going: deep, deep down into the trenches of the earth’s oceans.
Subaqueous, the new album, contains only two tracks, both about 20 minutes long. Drowned VI: Mother Cetacean and Drowned VII: Father Subaqueous continue where the previous album left of, musically and in numbering. The drowned individual is now an “immortal skin with nothing more to lose”, the water that has filled his lungs has made him “one with the ocean deep”. The journey continuous as indicated. The cover art shows the rim of a deep-sea trench from which luminescent lifeforms are floating upward. The listener is taken to the bottom of the earth’s oceans. Here, around the underwater geysers called black smokers, is where life is supposed to have originated.
Drowned VI: Mother Cetacean, the album’s first track, represents the female element in the creation of life. The music on this track is more harmonious, more melodious, more mellow and rounder around the edges. Amongst the heavy riffage you can hear recurring filigree tunes and towards the end even a cello or a violin. The sound of bubbling water and gurgled breathing adds an organic element. Though the vocals are growled and of a deep, guttural quality on both tracks, the mood changes significantly on Drowned VII: Father Subaqueous. Straight from the beginning this is heavier, edgier, weightier, darker, more aggressive and more chaotic.
At the same time unsettling and calming, sad an uplifting, Subaqueous explores the dual nature of life: male and female, frightening and beautiful, aquatic and celestial, and going in one direction while simultaneously being cyclical. This is the soundtrack for your Sunday afternoon ponderings about life in the time of the corona era.