What better time to be a doom metal band? It’s been a bad start to 2020 and with the media feeding the population a never ending stream of depressing news it only seems to be getting worse (please wash your hands at least twice during the reading of this review). Perfect timing it seems for a band such as Dwaal, a six piece from Oslo, to feed all the depression, anxiety and paranoia in the world into their delightfully named debut album, Gospel of the Vile. This is the follow up to their 2017 self-released EP Darben and although predominantly doom, also accommodates such eclectic genres as post-rock, traditional metal and black metal into its sound.
Gospel of the Vile consists of six tracks which fluctuate between brutal heaviness and atmospheric melancholy, sitting somewhere between bands such as Yob, Cult of Luna, Isis, and Amenra. It’s worth pointing out that if you’re a happy go lucky kind of person, in a particularly good mood, or alternatively, you’re in need of a pick me up, then this is not the record for you. From the first minute to the last this is bleak and devoid of any joy. It gets off to an underwhelming start with ‘Ascent’; it’s slow, mixing relatively heavy guitars with ethereal synths which at times have a choral vibe, alongside harmonised clean vocals. There’s a considerable change in tone on the second track, ‘Like Rats’, with miserable guitars, Cookie Monster style black metal vocals and dirge like synths. It has heavy moments which can induce mild head nodding, but it’s ponderous, criminally overlong and feels a little aimless.
The title track continues in a similar vein, plodding, but denser, with a wall of guitars giving some oomph, but this should be put out of its misery sooner, it encroaches upon fourteen minutes and feels like the band couldn’t decide on when to finish. If you’re hell-bent on giving Gospel of the Vile a whirl I would suggest ‘Obsidian Heart Burns’ offers most. It’s heavier with rolling drums, thrashy distorted guitars and some mildly catchy riffing. It shows signs of life and has more energy; if the album had built on this it could’ve been a different proposition. Instead it concludes with ‘Descent’; strap in for sixteen mind-numbing minutes of sheer unadulterated boredom. It does feature power chords and distortion but these are offset by quieter moments of introspection. I managed to stay conscious long enough to enjoy the vocals, which include the line “I’d rather die in battle now than a life in defeat” (if he had it would’ve saved the listener a considerable amount of time).
Dwaal project a disheartening progressive sound which is ably assisted by Bjornar Kristiansen’s lugubrious lyrics, focusing on his general disgust for humanity and society. Music that deals with such themes can invariably be downcast, but Gospel of the Vile takes it to extremes, an air of gloom hangs heavy throughout; a little light among the darkness would’ve offered some respite. Dwaal borrow from other genres but don’t use them to their advantage, the thrash and black metal sound too clean, while the doomy guitars don’t have the catchiness and low end rumble associated with other bands. What we get in abundance are protracted sections of synths and melodic guitars which unnecessarily drag each track out to offensive proportions. Gospel of the Vile offers nothing new and is instantly forgettable; there were times I forgot what I was listening to while listening to it, leaving me feeling not just cold, but frostbitten. Only the darkest souls, insomniacs and self-induced coma victims will get a kick out of this gospel. It’s thoroughly depressing and tedious, that’s sixty four minutes I will never get back.
(2/10 James Jackson)