Belgium’s Yhdarl knows a thing or two about loss. After recordings went missing enough times to suspect that a black metal purist was having a good stab at a Déhà poppet, the much-anticipated Loss finally managed to reach the light at the surface last week. Curiously enough, the zig-zagged journey to release was practically predestined in the story within the music, which was initially recorded back in 2011.
While the concept of loss—whether it be the loss of what was or the loss of what you had hoped to have been—tends to call forth the image of a man pressing his hand against a rainy window, that’s hardly the static experience. Through the stages of grief, re-envisioned, Loss effectively conveys the too-close-to-home human narrative that is the fingerprint of depressive metal. Standing strong with only three songs, the full-length heartily rebels against blackened metal’s bent towards the formulaic by reflecting the complexities of a blackened heart.
While some depressive artists have gone ultramodern in their approach, Yhdarl rejects bright guitar tones and fragile hope. Instead, a druid-like antiquity is embraced, demonstrating musical evolution through the mixing of sub-genres instead of the reinvention of a single. Only partially-ambient, Loss serves as one of Yhdarl’s most accessible works as it sews together countless pockets across the metal camp. While fans of atmospheric epic Ave Maria (2011) or ambitious noise venture Antithesis (2016) may be surprised by Loss’s overt abrasiveness, shock will hardly deflate to a letdown. This downer only rises, becoming a feat in its own right by Yhdarl’s willingness to challenge both its own sphere, as well as the one that surrounds.
Ignite – Ashes
Before the ashes can fall, there must first be a fire. No times is wasted in the album’s unleashing, suggesting that the journey of loss may not begin with a phone call or mysterious disappearance, but rather, the firsthand witnessing of the horrors that took. Having already mastered the art of gradual building, Yhdarl tackles the challenge of constructing an inverted triangle. The track grows more understated as it goes, acting as a display case for a blend of traditional black metal vocals and Silencer-style wails — practically the blackened equivalent of the classic emo scream-sing.
Chord progression retains Yhdarl’s signature sinister undertones and dungeon synth influences.
It’s as if Déhà is yelling from a pulpit that’s addressing nothing but a solitary echo chamber, indicating the futility of singing siren songs to a ship that’s already sunk. Still, his subtle demon-like ramblings that he disperses across arpeggios do not lay roots, leaving a blast of death vocals to mark the point at which denial has died.
Despise – Pity
The midsection of Loss demonstrates how the lines of grief’s stages can become blurred, placing its victim on a rollercoaster of hate and anger, defeatism and depression. Pity. Despise. The death wall is re-built and tone remains grave until finally, all is slowed to make room for tortured recitations dotted with Crowbar-like bellows.
The most experimental of the three vignettes, “Despise” continues down the stoner rabbit hole, dabbling into 70’s-style clean signing previously monopolized by more straight-laced doom outfits. In combination with riff repetition, consistent blast beats, and light operatic atmospherics, we are left with a hypnotic rise and fall that reads like drone (sans headache). Finally, weight is lifted to increase the speed of the train barreling to the end of catharsis’ a-linear line.
Sources – Nihil
The heat of passion eventually dulls to grey. Quiet, distorted bass takes a slow-motion fall into feedback in what becomes the album’s most prominent funeral doom moment (aside: if you find this track to be your favorite, check out Solemn They Await). Conjuring imagery of a monotone no man’s land, peace from the extreme emotional oscillation becomes a prison of its own. But, the building of drums and a bit more variety in guitar progression appeals to the growth portrayed in Loss’s art – to and from the dirt, the dead are dutifully buried, and the vines continually grow. The bloom of symphonics eventually wilts with tolling bells. And so, the fade finally gives way to silence.
Overall, the listener will grasp a tone of hope or despair depending on which organ-like note they choose to dwell. Loss, life, and the loss of life aren’t inherently good or bad. In fact, they’re not inherently anything. We take away what we project, which may change face with a shift of stage or season. In the spirit of Nihil, loss doesn’t “matter” in a grand cosmic sense, and neither does anything else. Yet, every random, unforeseen event creates a course that no god nor human can control. Comfort in a time of loss will not be found in chasing sense, but rather, the acceptance of the nonsensical. The dominos will continue to fall, taking and giving, until the final is cast down.
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