Aphonic – having no voice or sound; mute.
Threnody – A lament.
Depression is a serious thing. Anyone who, like myself and Aphonic Threnody, has suffered it in its’ various forms knows of the bleak and almost inescapably sombre, bittersweet void in which it ensnares it’s victims. It isn’t called a mental illness for nothing.
Wishing to convey this musically and lyrically, lyricist/vocalist/mostly-death-growler of this multi-national collective Roberto Mura describes this journey through the deep dark chasm thus: ‘the narrated themes are a description of mental breakdowns, moments of depression, dreams of suicide and human decay’.
They sure achieved that aim on ‘Of Loss And Grief’; from start to finish, I physically felt the envelopment of this depressive veil, perhaps through prior emotional conditioning but mostly via deftly skilful, if not a tad generic, funereal doom metal.
Despondency kicks things off – who am I kidding. Despondency prods things along with a gothic synth from keyboardist Juan Escobar; slow-burning riffage from guitarist Riccardo Veronese and lead guitarist Zack Cignetti; guest bassist Alesk Deralius and the ever-lumbering cavernous wheel of drums from skinsman Marco. A drawling death-doom roar, guttural, slow and pained, similar to vocalists from bands such as Brisbane’s The Dead and Finns Swallow the Sun. ‘Endlessly dark, and your falling with it’ he bellows over thick, viscous chords, slow but sure leads and soloing, and a general feel of suffocation.
Life Stabbed Me Once Again, a title meant to convey the sharp pangs in between the fog that anxiety often flaunts during the course of depression. Some nice subtle basslines run slyly underneath washing synths, with dual leads very reminiscent of Daylight Dies, albeit even slower. Drums roll and fill in the background, endless waves of thudding heartache. Those omnipresent roars lead towards the faster and bluesier soloing of Frederic-Patte Brausser (of Funeralium)
Light Has Betrayed Me Once Again has a sense of familiarity and impending hopelessness with pessimism. Fading out with bleak keys, we’re still left bereft of any sense of hope here – stuck deep amongst the gloom.
Fortunately, the most melodic intro of the album appears not long after with All I Love – still not happy per se, but a brighter chordal tone and keys alongside a more alert rhythm section. Stripped away once again by a powerful doom-death sequence with long, slow growls. This contrasts quite well with yet another guest appearance; the tones of Sophie Day (Alunah), who provides clean soulful singing that resonates with the subdued mature of the music – powerful, pensive but not joyous. Good duelling with Roberto, who provides a light-dark dynamic reflecting the melancholy of depression. The latter half breaks into a lead section arising from slumber, briefly rising above funeral pace. Brief bass soloing ensues before heading back to mournful plodding, violins and super slowed down drumming.
Lies is an epic and difficult jaunt across 19 and a half minutes, roping in two more guests in Justin Hartwig (lead guitarist of Mournful Congregation) and acoustic guitarist Josh Moran. The latter begins with an almost classic Metallica feel, right alongside drums which sound like they were recorded at the bottom of the mines of Moria.
Tasty solos and leads, melodic and playful without overbearing, flit about for a while before following in with some piano and sneaky bass lines.
Crooning vocals reminiscent of Neurosis or perhaps even SWANS feel nothing if not soulful. Ironically, the most pained sounding track is the one where Roberto brings melody laid bare – the veil of death metal vocals from before now appear to have masked a sensitivity that depression often beats out of us men with pure anger, fury and self-hatred. An epic dissonant piano and riff follows descending back downwards. A monologue sounding like that of a helpless preacher, clutching prayer beads in the rain. Long spaces of piano and harmonic vocals stretch out the latter half. Desperate leads collapsing backwards over thoughtful melodic vocals, soaring to a higher plane than elsewhere. It ends with minutes of epic but not flashy soloing – the slow burn is complete.
Contrastingly, Red Spirits In The Water begins in almost synth-wave fashion, akin to an 80’s sci-fi special. By this point the blanketing rhythms and even melodic leads are suffocating me. It’s as much a test of attentionally-challenged modern man as it is an aural exercise in learned helplessness. I push onwards, much like I have done when suffering depression in the past.
An epic building riff with dual death metal vocals boils into echo heavy arpeggios over whispers, more post-metal than doom. ‘I FEEL IT!’ is roared, following by a trampling double kick and abrupt riffing at 6 minutes. Dominic, bassist from doomsters Worship – implements some distortion-heavy bass around 9 and a half minutes before feedback heavy ringing leads and another piano outro.
Justin of Mournful Congregation returns alongside Sami Rautio on backing vocals (My Shameful) – a choir of vocals and sustained synths, reminding me of the utterly hate-soaked Vow of Vengeance by Australian black metallers Nazxul. Quiet and almost out of tune acoustic passages creep forward with barely audible sombre leads. A solo which wouldn’t be out of place in Lord of The Rings drives into a much bluesier section. At 3 minutes operatic synths and screeching pained vocals arise. Overall, the thick and heavy tone with dual screams and slow leads convey a final sense of defeat; of utter hopelessness. Seems there’s no way out of this. More playful soloing. A galloping outro riff with those operatic choir like vocals and synths. Sustained violins slide gently out of the way and the album is done.
I feel a sense of reprieve and release as soon as the album concludes. I think Aphonic Threnody, while not exactly breaking any new ground (which I’m sure wasn’t their intention anyway), deliver up a downtrodden mass which is the perfect aural experience to convey the bleak corners of the mind.
Get your copy of ‘Of Loss And Grief’ here.