26 March 2016
Verdun - The Eternal Drift's Canticles
Request reviews are coming thick and fast these days, hopefully I will be able to get through them all with the rest of the team; real life balance and all that jazz, but let me not focus on the mundane world and instead on the upcoming release of from Montpellier based doom act Verdun. Formed in 2011, this is their second release after 'The Cosmic Escape of Admiral Masuka' ep which was released in 2011 and this was recorded by Mathieu Croux and mixed/mastered by Tad Doyle. That last name will be known to a few who are interested in The Brothers of the Sonic Cloth and Tad, Mathieu Croux is the guitarist of Verdun, together with Géraud Jonquet (Drums), Florian Celdran (Bass), Jay Pinelli (Guitar) & Paulo Rui (Vocals) have created this album that is being reviewed here. Over the years they have shared the stage with the likes of YOB, Eyehategod & Electric Wizard, so they have a pedigree already going on as well. Now I think I would have picked this album up as part of my much missed cover roulette, it is one of the most striking images I have seen in a while. So - Verdun have the image, the back and a growing reputation that is growing daily - do they have the album to back it up?
Now this is going to be a short review as there is only five songs on this album, but the songs are not short in length. Starting off the album is "Mankind Seppuku" which takes just under two minutes to move past a droning noise that builds up a tension in the air. When the song erupts (and I mean it explodes) into life, it is with the slow and steady pace of vengeance and remorseless determination that comes from deep within the sludge genre. It took me a few attempts to get into this song if I am honest, maybe it was due to my head space being in the wrong place, but once you get it then it makes so much sense. The low vocals mixed with demonic shouting, the slow droning guitars, the bass that rumbles in between the guitars and the methodical and striking drumming that shape this song are so rich, but it is a long song as well that demands so much that it should be obvious that it will not unlock for you fully upon the first listen. Or the second, third, fourth listens either - but it does come and with persistence, you shall be rewarded. "Self Inflicted Mutalitation" begins with the sounds a voice coming in from the shadows as the guitar rumbles onwards for what seems like forever and an instance at the same time (sludge/doom is all down to perceptions) and then it starts once more, but this time it has such a ferocity that it goes to a primal level of music that is a great fold to "Mankind Seppuku"; it is obviously carved from a similar style to the former and has a similar consistency, giving it a fluid/linear progression for the listener. But it is good to hear these guys bring more rock to the proceedings and that their sound can do more than one speed, it shows that there is depth to the sound and we are only two tracks into this album.
The midway point is marked with "Dark Matter Crisis" that starts with a mournful guitar playing in the dark, sounding hallow and full of pain as the notes fall like tears and blood mixed into one. They do like to build the anticipation on this record, each beginning takes an age as they make you wait for the rumbling to beginning. When it eventually comes into the light, it is not a beautiful sight, at least in the convention sense of the word. It is a beast that is in pain, it is a creature that snarls and lashes out at the world; there is no remorse here, only pain and an ongoing sense of attack. The way the band deliver this song is something that I have not felt since I finally understood Neurosis and what they were giving to the world, it makes so much sense once you get there and it has a lasting power that remains with you after the last note has fades back to the void it came from. The penultimate song of the album is called "Glowing Shadows" and the length of the tracks is extending onwards once more past the ten minutes’ mark. What you have here is a familiar pattern of long introduction which is meshed together with a long and harsh pit of fury that is not lost on the listener (nor would you want it to be) as the band unleash their own brand of poison onto the world, but once they start to let the noise and pain drop with merciless drone and aggressive noise. The band drop one of their heaviest pieces with this one and it captures all sides of the band - the aggressive speed, the slow sludge, the screams of a devil and the ever present pain in the music. However, it is not the ending to the record - no, that honour falls to "Jupiter's Coven". With this track, Verdun sink deep into their groove, ploughing a level of sludge with rumbles deep in the speakers and you can actually feel it pulse through the floor if you get your speakers right (I like to see how this sort of song feels at times, as well as sounds; the pulsing sound of the band toward the end just makes it sound like the heart is beating through someone's chest. This is noise that you get from amplifier worship and it sounds like walls are falling in places, it is such a good ending to this album. It fits brilliantly and is truly the finale that this album deserves.
So if I love this album so much, why is it not getting a nine or a ten from me? Well, I have to be honest that it took me such a long time to fall under its spell. If I had of went for my first thoughts, it might not have gotten as high a mark as I am given it here as I was so not prepared for it. However, I gave pause and worked on it as I felt something brewing each time I listened to it. I make no bones about the fact that this album is not for everyone and you will really need to have a certain type of mind to appreciate this - imagine Neurosis, Kylesa and Burning Witch have a jam and that is pretty much what you are getting from this band. But it is rough as hell, not for everyone and not an easy album to process on first listen - so obviously I love it now, but I am under no illusion about it either. If you do go for this album, tread carefully and work on it as there are rewards to be found in this one.
8.5 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart
Top track - Dark Matter Crisis
You can order The Eternal Drift's Canticles here from the Lost Pilgrims Records website.
You can visit the Verdun website here.
You can follow the activities of Verdun on Facebook here.
You can order The Eternal Drift's Canticles from the Verdun Bandcamp here
At the time of writing, The Eternal Drift's Canticles is not available on any streaming sites.
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