It’s taken eight years for US tortured Doom activists Amarok to create an album but, finally, here it is. With four tracks clocking in at almost 70 minutes you know that Devoured (Translation Loss) is going to be a long ride, but the news here is that it’s an emotionally draining one also.
Sad, Folk-style guitarwork covers the first four minutes of opener ‘Sorceress’ but as the pulsing swell increases, the harrowing scream of Brandon Squyres ushers in an altogether more unsettling and sonorous experience. Not a million miles away from the wretched dirges of Bell Witch, especially with the track’s solemn third movement, this quartet unsurprisingly carry a more rounded sound whilst maintaining the Seattle duo’s crushing weight. Kenny Ruggles’ dry, guttural roar is terrifying, coating much of the middle section, which is complemented by the deafening resonance of the instruments and the heightened horror of a Drone-like pace.
‘Rat Tower’, a 23-minute epic, opens in similar fashion to its predecessor: sparse, melodic chords accompanied by stark atmospherics. When the inevitable power kicks in it doesn’t so much rattle the head as blow you off your feet, whilst Squyres’ screams again chill the soul and offer a delicious contrast to the mournful lilt. As Ruggles rejoins the vocal melee in the second half the pace lifts slightly, beautifully dictated by Colby Byrne’s sticks, but the mood remains desperately moving to the gorgeous, bitter end.
The onset of ‘Skeleton’ isn’t so much moving as inducing of involuntary bowel movements, but the track soon settles back to the format of mournful colossus carrying that horrific dual vocal on its weary shoulders. The breakdown to a funereal middle section makes one feel as if the earth has ceased to rotate, whilst the teasing return to a lumbering behemoth is exquisite, as is the whole of this perfectly-formed third turn of the screw.
The title track closes the album with devastating splendour. A return to those sombre, sparing Folk chords drops the heart into utter melancholy before the resultant explosion staggers the mind with the subsequent realisation that the pace has not changed one iota. The magnificence of this wonderfully controlled crawl is evident in the changes of tune, of complexity, of mortifying grief, without altering the flow of the river drowning this tragic yet euphoric finale.
It may be tempting to label Amarok as Bell Witch copyists but there’s much more to their sound. While the agony, the tragedy, is just as honest and believable, and the sound as relentlessly suffocating, the lighter touches from Ruggles’ leadwork and the fuller sound of the band as a whole gives this unit its clear identity. On this evidence, it’s a bloody majestic one.