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Everything about Buried (Shelsmusic/I.Corrupt), the debut full-length from Texan trio Brother/Ghost, shook me to the core before I’d even heard it; some websites even likening their sound to Folk and Country rock. The song titles were stark enough to make me wonder, and the reality here is indeed very different.
The initial strains see Death in Vegas-style atmospherics blend with the catchy melodies of 90s Indie-pop outfit New Radicals, slowed by a brick on the turntable and oft decorated with crushing riffs and pummeling drums, as with opener ‘Satan’. The real magnetism in these early stages, however, is the harrowing melancholy of the lyrics and the delivery of co-vocalist Colby Faulkner James; the maudlin tunefulness counteracting the tortuously slow execution. ‘Cripple’s utterly depressing tale is delivered from the back of a giant snail by James’s mellifluous tones, beautiful yet heartbreaking, the harshness increasing with the building riff and roared coda.
The ensuing ‘Causeway’ is a similar story; a painfully sad trawl through a melodic lament, James’s voice and the teardrops of a Fender Rhodes dripped like barbed honey into the soul. Exemplifying some of the most delicate Doom music of recent times, ‘Freedom’s twisty bass riff snakes through a jangling lead and strange drum pattern, the slight lift in pace only mildly alleviating the bitter misery disguised by those deceptively spiteful vocals: sometimes hushed and calm, occasionally soaring like a wounded eagle, once breaking with raw emotion.
Despite the overriding disconsolation, this is a strangely uplifting sound…until the invitation to wrist-slitting that is ‘Pendulum’. When co-vocalist W.S. Dowdy’s throat reaches for doleful bass notes, you’ll realise just how the spirit of David Gold courses through this album. Incredibly, more honest, gut-wrenching emotion bleeds from ten seconds of this track than any effort from the late, legendary Woods of Ypres mainman; the chopping, swinging riff embodying the title, the closing momentum a staggeringly affecting slowness. Closer ‘Blackdog’, meanwhile, is initially layered with lush synths which cheapen the tired, almost inebriated voice. The ensuing swell, however, is the aural depiction of depression with riffs squirming through oscillating sound effects and lyrics such as “Toothless mouths full of doom and god” fully depicting the near-apathetic despair underpinning the whole set.
It’s a curious affair this, blending easy listening with pulverising power and the most emotionally disturbing sadness; bewitching, bitter, traumatic yet compelling, and well worth the many listens it will take to control your brain. Those of us who have experienced this level of darkness will either find it too painful to reach the end of this captivating offering, or fully wallow in its exquisite tragedy.