If drone and the sounds of the wind, a dripping tap and a sombre piano are what floats your boat, you’re quids in with the opener of this second album from funereal doomster Noctu from Italy. But this accounts for a mere two minutes of this 73 minute work. The drone of the more substantial “Fitte Tenebre (Le Radici dell’Inferno)” (Dense Darkness – The Roots of Hell), which follows, told me that we’re in for a long haul. Distant screams from an echoing void add to the monotonous funeral fare. On it plods repetitively. The sombre piano returns. A haunting chant drifts away in the background as we proceed through the echoing chasm. The piano has a quizzical air of horror in it. There’s something cinematic about the next short piece of gloom “Oltre I Cancelli del Cimitero” (Beyond the Gates of the Cemetery). More hissing, groaning and outright funeral doom characterises “Lucida Oscurità Senziente” (Lucide Sentient Darkness). Death, suicide, sorrow – it’s all here as we plumb unfathomable and inescapable depths. The pattern is familiar for this genre. There isn’t much you can do with it. It’s not going to crank up, but occasionally the wind picks up and there are echoing sound effects. But all in all it follows a narrow path, pumping away periodically with a whistle in the air and a lot of breathing and hissing. I’m not sure I have to describe it as depressing but de facto it is. A bit of symphonic sound reinforces the stifling atmosphere.

After anther pointless interlude, “Isolato Da un Mondo Senza Speranza” (Isolated from a World Without Hope) comes on. I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle 32 minutes of this, but by this stage I was in the mindset for a good dose of gloom. And here it was. Well, the title’s right. Slow and drawn out, the artist that is Noctu breathes through the monotonous ponderings. A little harpsichord-type sound adds a little colour – perish the thought – but don’t worry, it’s all about mourning and suffering and despair or at least that what it sounds like as our guide continues to take us through the echoing chasm. A bit more weight and depth are added in the middle. Maybe that’s what we needed. As the drum beats, a haunting choral sound strikes up. An industrial drone follows – the most interesting section of the album in my view – and accompanies the grey and monotonous sound, which transforms into a deep and dark symphony. A deep echoing voice chants a solemn hymn meanwhile. As we hear the constant yet delicate sound of a ticking clock or less likely a heartbeat, any semblance of life is taken away by the ambient sound of unremitting obscurity in the background. Finding or preserving life simply aren’t in the remit of “Gelidae Mortis Imago” – the image of an icy death.

Without doubt there’s creativity here and you can’t accuse Noctu of deviating away from the core theme. If you like this unremitting funeral stuff, then you’ll have a whale of a time wallowing in all this. The alternative view is that it’s a test of endurance. At least I didn’t have too much trouble passing it.

(6/10 Andrew Doherty)