As All Seasons Die(Svart)…happy eh? This Finnish five piece, housing ex- and current members of Horna and Corpsessed, don’t come across as cheerful, and indeed theirs is the most funeral of doom.
Orchestral keys at a snail’s pace accompany the sparse yet crushing riff and drums of ‘A Reverie (Midsummer’s Dying Throes)’, the flattening qualities of the bridges when everything collides together, both awe-striking and ominous, Anssi Mäkinen‘s voice a crawling, seeping growl to terrify the hardiest soul. It is tolling and metronomic with an affecting organ solo a striking, mournful interlude which lingers and carries a titanic beat and riff, that builds the drama, the emotion and the oppression, yet never changing pace. It’s impossible to convey just how staggeringly effective this is, which is remarkable when you consider that there are periods when it seems as if nothing happens.
The reverberating chant of ‘Dead Are Our Leaves of Autumn’, delivered as if from God on high, is so gentle yet resonant as to caress the mind whilst cracking you in the face. Mäkinen’s doleful tones induce paradoxical feelings of misery and euphoria whilst initially understated lead work soon becomes the centrepiece escalating to stunningly emotive levels, imitating gulls on a barren shore à la Marillion’s Steve Rothery. It is an exercise in precision and control, yet feels as organic as the Yorkshire moors – harsh, desolate, yet staggeringly beautiful.
As the life cycle ends with the tolling, effortless yet pounding closer ‘The Dire Womb of Winter’, creeping with the speed and stealth of a hunting cat, it really does echo the seasonal despair’; portentous, weighty, and shudderingly affecting despite the occasionally soporific pace. A spearing riff shoots forth at intervals to prevent sleep, and replace the weight in slow motion. Yet when the keys begin to build to the crescendo there’s the slightest quickening, a lifting of mood. A rebirth…?
The disaffected listener who craves more action, the quick hit, is already dead inside. The clue is in the description: life affirming whilst lamenting the sadness of it, this is another winner from Svart.