Recorded at D. Prod. Mixed and mastered by Raphaël Bovey at MyRoom Studio. Music by Dirge. Lyrics by Stéphane L. Cover art by Axël Kriloff. Released Friday 14 December 2018.
As much as I am a massive fan of Justin Broadrick’s groundbreaking and consistently amazing industrial band Godflesh, and with more than a passing interest in Isis, I am surprised that I had never heard of Dirge until now. Not least because this is their seventh album, released after a four year hiatus. Or as the official press release puts it:
After 4 long years in seemingly quiet solitude, DIRGE, the conjurers of celestial bodies rooted in cumbersome earth, return with their 7th offering of hymnals to the toil of suffering and perseverance.Stampede Press UK press release
And it is good. It’s really good.
“Wingless multitudes” (track 1) opens with a gorgeously rich chugging guitar riff that wouldn’t go amiss on a Godflesh track. It is a slow and brooding song that slowly builds into a throbbing and wailing soundscape, the bass carving out a heavy beat with guitars etching out a melody. The vocals are low, guttural and perfect. This is the shortest track on the album, clocking in at 6 minutes 46 seconds.
In the Old Testament, “Hosea 8:7” (track 2) reads “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads; it shall yield no flour; if it were to yield, strangers would devour it.” (English Standard Version) This appears to be the soundtrack to the whirlwind and emerges beautifully from the end of “Wingless multitudes” and continues in much the same vein.
“Algid Troy” (track 3) segues beautifully from the dying notes of the previous track. Padding strings and pulsing, chirping vocals create an atmospheric soundscape that suddenly bursts into rhythm. So begins nearly nine and a half minutes of delightful, melancholic industrial metal with more than a passing nod to 80s Gothic rock.
Another seamless transition into “The burden of almost” (track 4). From the roar of the apocalyptic winds to a bludgeoning and plodding riff. There is something oddly soothing about the repetitive nature of this track.
The title track, “Lost empyrean” (track 5) beings with the sound of footsteps on gravel, reverberating notes picked out, a simple rhythm tapped out, and then… there it is: a pulsing, epic track that has depth and emotion, a sorrowful and crushingly furious lament. Guitars weave in and out of one another as the track powers through. This song lives to be experienced live, feeling the music in your body as the crowd bounces and surges like a sea.
Dirge seem to love their slow and atmospheric intros, and “A sea of light” (track 6) follows suit. It opens with a lamentful, growling vocal and a doom-laden riff that morphs into a rich, baritone and by far the most melodic song on the album. As such, it feels a little out of place being that bit more upbeat than the other tracks.
“Sarracenia” (track 7) ebbs and flows with layers of guitar and the most monstrous gravely bass textures you could hope for, while vocals weave in another out of one another—switching from clean to shouting. There is a depth and complexity to this track like watching creatures beneath a rock pool while also observing the reflections of those above. This track washes over you, gently soothing and lightly pummelling you.
This is a gorgeous album that has only whetted my appetite to listen now to their previous six albums. I can see this becoming one of my favourite albums of the year, and a firm favourite to write or code to; my current favourite is Godflesh—Streetcleaner (1988).
This album has everything I want from an album—depth, emotion, crushing riffs and soaring melodies. There are elements of industrial metal, doom and electronica, wrapped in a melancholic, plodding groove. I love it.
As the press release says, this isn’t a record to listen to, it’s one to surrender to.
Review score: 95%
Stampede Press UK contacted me inviting me to preview Dirge’s forthcoming album, which I was delighted about.
I have no connections to either Stampede Press UK or Dirge. I’m not being paid to review this. But I did get a free digital copy of the album to review which is pretty cool.
Many thanks to Rob from Stampede Press UK, and to Dirge for continuing to create fresh, exciting metal.