Monday 10 May 2021

Devastating Light - I Have Already Failed You (2021)

Country: Finland
Style: Doom/Sludge Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 9 Jan 2021
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Metal Archives

This EP is a little older than I would usually review in May, given that it went up on Bandcamp back in January, but it's getting released in traditional form around the world and it's still a 2021 release so I'm up for it, especially as it was sent to me for review. Thanks to Teemu Toikka for sending it over, but then he does everything else on this album too, so publicity is just one more hat for him at this point. He wrote it, played every instrument on it, mixed it, mastered it and probably swept the studio floor and switched off the lights at the end of the day too.

If this is a Teemu Toikka brain dump, it suggests that life can be pretty depressing way up there in the frozen wastes of Tampere, Finland. Hey, I'm in Phoenix, Arizona, often described as the boiler room of Hell; even the sunny Mediterranean seems like frozen wastes to me nowadays. However, I was born in the UK and grew up in Yorkshire, twenty degrees of latitude further north, so I remember days where I never saw the sun. Get up in darkness, go to work in darkness, go home in darkness and go to sleep in darkness. Rinse, repeat until spring shows up. Tampere is eight more degrees north, even if it's in the south of Finland.

The concept behind the name of Devastating Light aims to capture that feeling, because Teemu is of the mindset that, while the darkness of winter is depressing, when spring arrives with the sun in tow, somehow the light is more depressing still. And I can grok that. Right now, I dread the moments when I have to open the front door because there's a burning ball of fire in the sky that wants to kill me. The light here really is devastating. Air conditioning FTW.

Any music built on this sort of idea and with a title like I Have Already Failed You is going to be acutely depressing and that tends to means achingly heavy and that's exactly what this is. This EP runs for 28 minutes, so only a long breath shorter than Reign in Blood. That's generous for an EP, even if it's taken up by one song in three parts, but the journey Toikka takes us on, courtesy of the train that brings us the initial part and takes away the final one, never gets overwhelming. It's abidingly heavy and his voice is a shriek into the void, but I enjoyed riding this melancholy.

Reading the lyrics, this seems to be an incessant dive into the deepest depression, because it reads in many ways like a suicide note, full of "crushing emptiness", "self hatred" and "no hope". "I can't help myself," Toikka tells us in Part Two, "I think no one can. The dark consumes me. The light destroys me. No sense in being." It's freeform suicide poetry and it's shrieked in an almost black metal style under the music, as if it feels unworthy to take the lead.

However, the music tells a different story to me. To my mind, there's isolating depression, which is not easy to listen to because it's inherently built on rejection, and there's welcoming depression, which is far more accessible and that's what I'm getting from this. It makes me feel like Toikka isn't screaming for help, whatever those lyrics might suggest; he's exploring his personal darkness through creativity so we can join him down there and share the weight of all this. In my darkest hours, I turn to Leonard Cohen and Joy Division for that reason because they're welcoming depression. Now I know I can turn to Devastating Light too.

This song, because there really is only one neatly bookended piece here, is broken up into three long parts, two in the eight minute range and the third over eleven. They're slow and patient, as befits the doom metal genre that I'd place this in first, but there's a recurring tone that brings sludge into play, as does the vocal because sludge metal really doesn't seem to like clean vocals. However, there are a lot of dynamics going on, presumably to show us that depression isn't a single moment, it's a ride and some moments are darker than others. I particularly like Part Three for this, because the weight lifts for some glorious sections before reasserting itself.

Thanks for this, Teemu. You haven't failed anyone here. Like the darkness of winter, I didn't want this to end.

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