Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Quercus - Verferum (2019)



Country: Czech Republic
Style: Funeral Doom Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 1 Jan 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Metal Archives

I can't listen to funeral doom every day but there are times when I like nothing more than to throw on some Ahab and chill. Next time I get into that sort of mood, I might well switch over to Quercus instead, because there are some sounds in here that are a sheer delight. I liked the first five relentlessly heavy minutes of Ceremony of the Night, for instance, but then they switched gears on me for the second five and I was grinning like a madman at the audacity of the change. That also set up the last five, making it a real three act play of a track and I loved it.

Quercus hail from Plzeň (or Pilsen) in the Czech Republic and their name translates from the Latin as 'oak'. Maybe they're reliable enough to live up to that moniker and I ought to seek out their last couple of albums, Sfumato and Heart with Bread, to check. These most recent three albums all arrived within a six year period but their debut, Postvorta, lies a further seven years adrift into the past and is apparently a rather avant-garde piece with a variety of guest vocalists including a cat. Yes, you heard right.

As you might expect from funeral doom, this runs long but with a skimpy track listing. Verferum lasts over an hour but it only contains four tracks, the shortest of which is still over ten minutes in length. The longest, which wraps up the album, is well over double that and its title highlights the key influence this time out, which is Johann Sebastian Bach, who composed Passacaglia in C Minor. Quercus lift their composition up to D Minor.

That gear shift in Ceremony of the Night is heralded by a pipe organ like we might expect to hear in an old church and that instrument returns at points throughout, courtesy of keyboardist, Markko Pišl. His contributions to the album, if I'm able to distinguish them correctly, are more varied than those of his compatriots, Ondřej Klášterka on guitars and drums and Lukáš Kudrna on bass amongst other instruments which I'm unable to list. I'm presuming that the keyboards are responsible for the more atmospheric sounds, including the space age ones early in Journey of the Eyes.

It's that church organ sound that's most memorable though and it bookends the album and indeed the final track, Passacaglia D Minor, White and Black Darkness, which is a long, heavy trip that's nothing like I heard in church back in my early years. It's a deep immersive slab of doom that sucks us into its world, leaving us surprised that we were under its spell for over twenty-three minutes. However many times I listen to it, it still feels like a six minute track.

There's nothing here as memorable as the beginning of Ahab's The Call of the Wretched Sea, but the songs are longer and they both invite us in more subtly and reward us in a deeper way. This is an album to explore in a dark room through headphones and that's a pretty good way to start 2019.

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