REVIEW: MESMUR – “Terrene”
There is a tragic beauty in sorrow and grief, and all stories ultimately end in both. Neither can be avoided, all that can be done is to come to grips with them and find your way through life. There is beauty because there is beauty in life and its frailty; to feel sorrow and grief means to live a life that has had love; and to have that is to have a life worth living. It is in embracing and sharing the strange beauty of sorrow that the funeral doom genre finds its home. And the multinational band Mesmur has tapped into the essence of this with their new album ‘Terrene.’
Two years ago I reviewed their last album, ‘S’, which was a Lovecraftian look into the endless void of space. This new album finds the band firmly back on Earth, and with that a more human, and thus more a more sorrowful and beautiful, album has been created. Funeral doom often comes in two forms, the type this album is, and the type that seeks to suffocate the listener with despair and misery. I find more value in the type explored on this album. The band is made up of four members who have never met one another, from different parts of the world, Jeremy L – Guitars, and Synth, Michele M – Bass, John D – Drums, and vocalist Chris G. The lyrics are handled by both the vocalist and guitarist. As the album consists of only four songs, I’ll hit on each one.
The album begins with the longest track, “Terra Ishtar,” which clocks in at nearly 17 minutes in length. Ishtar was a Babylonian goddess who came into popularity around 4000 B.C., Babylonian mythology is hardly a point of knowledge of mine, so I can say little more that would be of value regarding the title. The music starts quietly with waves of synthesizers, before the slow heavy crush that funeral doom is known for comes in. After a slow buildup the deep, almost hollow, growls come in. Lyrically it deals much of sorrow and impending doom, in part built on the mythology, but they also work perfectly well as themes for normal life. The band takes advantage of the full amount of time, both by speeding up sections (it IS still funeral doom however, so we’re not talking hyper speed), but also slowing the music down even more. Besides the usual instruments, guitar, bass, and drums, a sampled mellotron effect on the synths are used extensively. Best known for their use in late 60s and early 70s progressive rock, there is a timeless quality and uniqueness to a mellotron that I absolutely love, so am perhaps a bit bias in my enjoyment of their inclusion throughout the album. A very prominent section of key use comes halfway through, when the metal stops entirely and we’re treated to a minute of so of quiet washes of keyboards, which double for strings. The effect is quite realistic, the result is sublimely beautiful, and one of my favorite moments on the album.
This is followed by “Babylon” which continues with the middle eastern themes explored throughout the disk. Once again the slowly crushing metal is augmented by quieter passages, including some guest flute by Don Zaros of funeral doom legends Evoken. The shortest track on the album, while not as sprawling, it remains effective in its pacing and use of dynamics.
The guest list continues on the following track “Eschaton” which features cellist Nadia Avanesova. This track wastes no time getting heavy from the very beginning, and the cello doesn’t wait for a quiet moment to begin, instead joining the slowly crushing guitars and bass. The result is a very effective combination of beauty and brutality, mirroring the lyrics which deal with the collapse and destruction of society and the world as we know it. At around the 7 minute mark the music changes and mirrors the sounds of sirens, or airhorns, as would be heard for an air raid or most apocalyptic scenario. This bleeds directly into a quiet section highlighting the cello and the spoken word vocals of Chris. The result is a haunting and achingly beautiful requiem for a dying world, suffering the wrath of a vengeful God, before the mayhem and heaviness comes back. The switch in sound simply serves to make the heaviness more effective.
The album closes with “Caverns Of Edimmu.” Edimmu are, according to my fairly brief reading, a type of vengeful demon or ghost in the ancient Summarian religion. I will admit, I don’t find the connection between this and the lyrics to be very clear, as they read more as a general account of punishment and hellish afterlife. They are effective, however, and the deliberate hollow nature of the vocals serve to remind one of a final reckoning in an eldritch abyss deep underground. The keys and mellotron once more make themselves known, and the deep bass and quicker handwork of the drums adds a sense of urgency as the song progresses. The guitar work, while, like much of the album, focuses on riffs, remains at times slightly floating above the rest, and small subtle bits of cleaner guitar can be heard, which adds more to the atmosphere of the whole. The instrumentation comes together to grieve at the end, and closes things out in a highly satisfactory manner.
Mesmur has managed to create an album of both crushing agony, and sublime beauty, of deep melancholy and sorrow. ‘Terrene’ is firmly planted on earth and frail humanity, and our shared experiences of sadness and grief. This type of funeral doom reminds me of a heavy blanket; it pushes firmly down on the listener, but there is comfort and security in it, comfort of a common understanding, and humanity. It is a work that fans of this lonely subgenre should take note of. Highly recommended.