“Memories long faded return to me from out of the darkness. Even now, I disintegrate in their presence. It turns my stomach into broken glass. In the end, I’ll find myself where I began. And I shall start again.”
So begins Elend, the first full-length release from o.68, otherwise known as Odpörovät 1968 (a reference to a revolutionary occurrence in the Czech Republic), a one-man funeral doom menace from Germany. Little else can be said about the mind from which these sombre anthems spring, other than the fact that Elend is an insipid monument to pain and sorrow. From the despairing spoken-word introduction of opener ‘Mornau’, very little light manages to escape the dense layers that follow and those who revel in the darkest melancholia will find plenty of solace in this album.
Across eight tracks, Elend winds through some intensely sullen, snail-paced dirgery. Tortured death vocals gurgle and scrape across a meandering mire of labyrinthine riffs, with lyrics obsessed with the finality of death and the beckoning end of this tiresome world. Sparse dark ambient sections fraught with intriguing samples trade off with bass-heavy pummelling. Unlike many funeral doom acts, however, who focus on one strict form of attack, o.68 is many-headed beast offering up a varied experience that crosses over into realms nary spliced with the genre. This is funeral doom… with a groove.
There’s a really unique tone and feel to the record, purportedly created without help of the standard fixtures of electric guitars. Instead a flotilla of heavily distorted bass guitars reel off ghastly yet melodic hooks that sink into the brain and threaten to pull it out through the eye sockets. At times, it captures that spirit the stoner rock bands tirelessly chase after, playing guitars through bass amps and culling the higher frequencies entirely. But here the tone is already fully formed and all-encompassing and it makes one wonder why more bands of a doom-orientation haven’t forsaken their six-string friends altogether. As a result, there’s actually a stoner-esque groove to some of tracks practically unheard of in funeral doom, most obvious in the tracks ‘Mother of Negation’ and ‘Zeitgeist Nokturne’. This device alone warrants a listen from funeral fiends.
Unfortunately, o.68 falls into the trap that is many a solo act’s downfall: the dreaded drum machine. While budget and logistics invariably cause many underground artists to resort to such desperate measures, I can’t help but think Elend would sound much better with cold, acoustic snaps reverberating around the cavernous horror that flows throughout the album. But beggars really can’t be choosers.
On the other hand, the music is of a relatively high calibre and such shortfalls are easily ignored. The painstakingly precise composition that has been pored over for many, many hours (“during the darkest hours of 2006-2010,” to be precise) is clear to see. The textures weaved by the multi-bass attack are intricate and intelligent, with much of the despondent atmosphere reliant on o.68’s flawless ear for nihilistic melodies.
Elend is, however, still a crushingly heavy album that must be heard with a rather bass-biased EQ to get the wall-quivering effects the artist intended. The use of a drum machine does have an upside too. On ‘Nothing But Death Remains’, the megaton pseudo-blues riffs and gurgling vocals extolling apocalyptic virtues are backed by complex, driving rhythms that, although rigid, affect an industrial-like pounding that is frankly irresistible. Diverse, depressing, hypnotic and bleak, this is a powerful release from both a promising artist and a visionary new label.
Ireland’s Ominous Silence has taken to releasing material with an admirable policy, focusing on acts with strong artistic and philosophical inclinations. The presentation of Elend is of a very high quality too and will make a handsome addition to your record collection: Crisp silver print on a double pocket digi pack with an eight-page booklet of depressive verse to reflect upon. Released on January 7th, it’s limited to 250 copies so pick up yours here. Samples can be found here, but they barely detail the epic scope of the album. Support the independent and visionary fire of the underground.