Deuil – Shock/Deny

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Label: Consouling Sounds

We all experience loss in our lives at some point. No one avoids death. This fact is something that is integral to the music of Deuil (translation: mourning). On Shock/Deny, they explore the first two stages of the grieving process, expressing themselves through cathartic blackened doom. As you might imagine, this is no easy listen; but nor should it be. This is music for dealing with the darkest of times, when it seems that there is no end in sight. As heavy as the themes they deal with, Shock/Deny is a challenging, immersive listen that leads you down some very dark roads, but by the end, leaves the listener feeling cleansed, as if some burden has been lifted from their soul.

Containing two songs and lasing just over a half hour, Shock/Deny is an album to fully immerse yourself in. The opening bass drones of “Shock” pull you in for a moment, before the song proper crashes in. As you’d hope from a song of sixteen minutes duration, there are plenty of shifts and changes, and the opening mid-tempo blackened doom builds up to something comparable to Cascadian black metal after several minutes, full of cinematic scope and emotive guitar lines over pounding drums. The section around the six minute mark even brings to mind the post-black metal of Deafheaven, possessing a similar kind of emotional impact and soaring guitars; but then, suddenly, the song crashes back down to funeral doom territory. The effect is quite jarring, and all the stronger and more successful for just how stark a contrast there is between the two sections of music. The song takes on an increasingly bleak, sludgy, unsettling feel that makes for an uncomfortable listen, but is no less compelling for it. As it reaches the end, the song descends in to a haze of feedback and noise, slowly ebbing away. It’s a haunting way for the track to close, and it tops off a gripping track that has real musical and emotional power.

“Deny” is no less successful. From the moment the guitars and cymbals crash in over the shrieked vocals, it’s clear that there will be no let-up or easing off. Moving along at the pace of a dirge, the track dwells in the dark and murk, feeding off of negative emotions and the deepest of miseries. There is relatively little variation for the first half, and what there is is subtle; as such, it pulls you in to a trance, as the best music of this style does. This all changes at the 6:30 mark, as the band suddenly launch in to furious, up-tempo black metal full of soaring guitars and dynamics. It’s the same kind of trick as they pulled on “Shock”, and equally successful. The song continues to twist and turn, more so than many other bands playing this style of black metal do on their songs. It’s thrilling enough in its own right, but following on from the down-tempo doom metal that preceded it, it’s given an extra feeling of energy and movement due to the contrast between the sections. Things shift during the final third, as black metal mixes with slower moments with overlapping vocal samples and strong bass leads, creating an almost ritualistic feeling. This is enhanced by the way the song concludes with backwards vocals and subtle bass drones. It almost fades away, and given the subject matter of the album, it’s hard not to read that as a kind of metaphor.

But what such descriptions may struggle to convey is just how hard-hitting Shock/Deny is. It’s a real gut-punch of a record, the kind that is not easy to sit through but is always rewarding once the conclusion is reached. For all the grief and negativity on display, it is also hugely cathartic and cleansing, as rituals of grief and mourning are intended to be. This is not the kind of album to put on in the background for an evening of blast-beats and easy black metal. Rather, it is the kind of album that is intended for the listener to engage with, to put something of themselves in to and get something rewarding back in exchange. And as such, Shock/Deny comes recommended to all who are willing to take the challenge it presents, as it is more than worthwhile

Shock/Deny can be pre-ordered on CD and a variety of vinyl formats via Consouling Sounds. 

On a final note, it’s heartening to see the band making an anti-NSBM statement on their Bandcamp page.

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