Style: Progressive Doom Metal
Release Date: 14 Feb 2019
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Goodbye Mexico and, indeed, the Americas, because I'm virtually hopping the pond and working inland to Romania today for a couple of interesting albums. First up is this slab of doom from Timișoara based Mirthless, who may or may not have changed immensely since they started out in 1998. The key player at that point seems to be a gentleman called Urmuz, but there's nobody of that name in the line up today. Maybe he changed his name to Sir Wagner. Maybe he just left. I don't know. Also, everywhere I see lists Mirthless Oblivion as if that used to be the name of the band before they stripped down to just a single word.
What's odd to me here is that Mirthless describe themselves as black/doom, a take that may be historical. The doom is completely obvious, but I'm hearing much more of a gothic feel to the band, the only black metal here being in the hoarse shriek that passes for Sir Wagner's vocals. The music is lush and feels reminiscent of velvet and mahogany and absinthe, as much as an elegaic sorrow. There's also a notable progressive edge. Come in late on Burning the Ground and roll over onto the title track and you can't miss prog. Put that all together and there's often a doom/death feel.
Things kick off with Ceaseless, which clearly isn't given that it only lasts six and half minutes. It begins with piano (and vinyl static), progresses in slow fashion through some glorious power chords and ends up with rain. It's exquisite doom, slow and aching, beautiful and dark. The tone stays in place throughout the album, though the tracks find different sounds. Burning the Ground, for instance, immediately jangles as if it wants to soar off onto a barely visible horizon but the drums ground it emphatically. It wraps up abruptly but very nicely.
Because of the gothic influence, Mirthless don't feel the need to remain at a snail's pace throughout. Songs like Drifted in Silence and the title track move along at a careful pace that's never fast but has a surprising energy to it. This is often uplifting doom, with that jangling guitar an oddity for the genre. There's a section in Drifted in Silence that features a narration behind the jangling guitars, all set against a wash of keyboards, and I felt like U2 might sound like this if they went goth and wrote a concept album on the romantic poets.
Maybe that's why the black metal vocals. Infamous Blood closes out the album with more playful guitarwork, an even upbeat chugging, but that bleak voice ensures that melancholy would be too cheerful a mindset. Sir Wagner couldn't sound more unlike Bono if he actively tried. Whenever there are vocals, we find ourselves deep in the forest or, given the cover art, out on the ocean. Either way, we're far from home and there's no guarantee that we'll return to anywhere that we recognise.
As one way trips go, this is an adventure. There's an inevitability here I'm used to from funeral doom bands such as Ahab, but it's shorn of its weight, except on Ceaseless which is pretty close to funeral doom. For the rest, we may be on some doomed quest across the waves and we may not make it out but, even if the captain is unceasingly grim, we're going to have a time of it if it kills us, damn it.