Parisian quartet Dirge can surely be termed a veteran of the post-Metal scene, now nearing a quarter of a century of active service. A new album is always hotly anticipated and seventh long-player Lost Empyrean (Debemur Morti Productions) is no different.
Ever drawing comparisons with Neurosis and Cult of Luna, the Dirge experience is sometimes a livelier proposition and this is borne out with opener ‘Wingless Multitudes’: crystal clear leadwork perfectly complementing crunching, purposeful riffs as Marc T’s gravelly holler soars above the emotive atmosphere. Clanging riffs dance around each other from the outset of ‘Hosea 8:7’, not dissimilar to Amenra’s explosive moments, yet the cosmic clarity of the harsh and smooth vocals, peppered with short yet meaningful bursts of leadwork, show a thoughtfulness and level of progression to rival any of their more renowned contemporaries. The meaty rhythm section is a huge feature here, the resonance of Alain B’s drums driving the sound to near-euphoric chaos.
‘Algid Troy’ sees an early reliance on synthwork add levels of drama, setting the scene perfectly for the gradual swell of power: the slower pace and pensive bridges combining with the eerie yet touching, delicate midriff to give extra gravitas to the pulsating fire, the coda embodying a war in the stars. ‘
The Burden of Almost’ sees wonderful Eastern-flavoured lead breaks underpin a deep, monstrous swell of angry gloom: a melancholy second movement girded by a wall of noise that jangles, rings and booms around the mind, fraying the nerves whilst contorting the body in ecstasy. There’s an element of soaring beauty in the title track, meanwhile, that belies the Sludgy terror puncturing its body: the laid-back clean vocal and subtle lead undercurrent emphasising the aural barrage cocooning it, the seeping tar of the harsh throat the perfect accompaniment.
The early stages of ‘A Sea Of Light’ are pure Blackened Doom, yet the honeyed choruses are filled with a nauseating tension. Lead currents again begin to flow beneath the fulminating beast, easing the hostility while adding to the cornucopia, the mind-distorting finale. It’s hard to see how this level of intensity can be maintained until the first few moments of closer ‘Sarracenia’ hit home: atmospheres clashing with a crushing bassline, slicing riffs and hypnotic, swirling voices to create a track with delicacy and brute force running in tandem. The almost tender mid-section still fizzes with barely reined angst, yet when the tsunami arrives it’s in controlled waves, gradually rising yet not drowning the emotion.
Every time, Dirge do it. Their illustrious counterparts may encompass more genres or tap harder into the listeners’ tear ducts, but a swirling force and Gallic flair maintains this legend’s vitality, its irresistible force. An undeniable, seething triumph.
8.5 / 10