Progress is an inevitable fact of life. And one of the pleasures of that in terms of music is you can listen to and view progress in real-time. Of course, progress is often slow, and few genres have more gatekeepers to “true” sound than metal does. This is particularly true for the more extreme side of things, as a general rule, the smaller the fan base the more dedicated to the old and “true” sound and the less welcoming of trying new things. Funeral Doom is quite often guilty of this, which is why a new album by Mesmur is always a welcome thing in my book. This international quartet while firmly rooted in the funeral doom genre, is also fully rooted in the history of 70s progressive rock, it’s not a common combination. But as they’ve shown over their past two albums, as well as their new release ‘Chthonic’, this a blending of genres they play very well together.
As is expected on a funeral doom album, the songs are overall on the long side. The exceptions are the two instrumental pieces that begin and end the album “Chthonic (Prelude)” and “Cthonic (Coda).” In both instances, these pieces flow directly into or out of the surrounding song. The prelude begins with slow drumming, a heavy riff, and the band’s signature layering of keyboards. The first proper song is “Refraction” and the vocals soon come into play. Lyrically the album deals with supernatural horror and in this instance, the narrator encounters a mirror self while on the verge of sleep. Swirling and eerie keys give a feeling of unease and otherworldliness to the song, while the deep growls of Cris G and the steady but thunderous drumming of John D ground the song firmly within earthly terrains. Guitarist and band leader Jeremy L’s guitar work and phrasing are quite recognizable for any who have spent time with the band, and as noted above his keyboard playing is a vital piece to the sound. It especially gives the 70s prog-rock feel I mentioned earlier, with synth lines that bring to mind the heyday of the genre.
This is followed up by “Petroglyph” which opens quietly before the echoey and tortured vocals begin. Even more than the previous track, this piece feels like the band is dragging the listener down into the deepest depths of the earth with the purpose of crushing their sanity. The atmosphere of this album is very vivid, and the marriage of vocals and music is an ideal one on this track. One can almost see the subterranean creature slowly coming out of the dark caverns of the earth that is described in the lyrics. Guest strings are provided by Brianne Vieira which add a subtle yet pronounced touch and feel to the piece. Bass is all too infrequently mentioned on albums of this nature, but Michele M is a steady rock who not only grounds the piece but is also frequently quite audible and interesting in its own right.
The last full song is also the longest, not only on the album but for the band. Clocking in at over eighteen minutes, “Passage” is a true epic. As mentioned earlier, this album deals with the horror of the supernatural sort. This song is quite unique in that regard as it deals with a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but since everyone is dead, the ghosts that remain have no one on the other side to communicate or interact with and so they slowly go insane. It’s an interesting take on the two subjects to be sure. The band makes good use of its running time, funeral doom is most certainly never a sprint, but this does feel like walking a marathon while slowly being baked to death among the ruins. The interplay between the guitars and the drums is what really carries the song along in my mind and the length gives opportunities for more interesting guitar sections. Around the 7:30 mark things change and become very quiet, the subtle strings from the last song come back, and the guitar notes are very sparse. The atmosphere and quiet keys give the feeling of wind quietly blowing and it is quite effective at giving a “lost” feeling to the listener. Once the music picks back up again the prog influences really come through strong, and are some of my favorite parts of the album.
The album ends with “Chtchonic (Coda)” a mostly quiet and moody piece of music that is dominated admirably by guest organist Kostas Panagiotou of the legendary doom band Pantheïst (who featured Jeremy and John on their last album). Synth keys and guitar accompany the organ and the album ends in an almost calm and, yes, beautiful way.
With this album, Mesmur continues to show that they are willing to be one of the more forward-thinking and exploratory bands in the genre and provide listeners looking for a little something extra with plenty of listening material. ‘Chthonic’ retains its doom-laden dread and heaviness, never abandoning its beauty while bringing the listener through a journey of strange tales and stranger sights.
Overall Sound9/10 Amazing‘Chthonic’ retains its doom-laden dread and heaviness, never abandoning its beauty while bringing the listener through a journey of strange tales and stranger sights.
Songwriting & Lyrics9/10 AmazingWith this album, Mesmur continues to show that they are willing to be one of the more forward-thinking and exploratory bands in the genre and provide listeners looking for a little something extra with plenty of listening material.