Label: Blackened Death Records
It should be pretty obvious what to expect from an album with a title like A Slow, Painful Life; and, living up to that promise, Lunarsapian deliver an album that can hardly be described as a soundtrack to a good time. Combining funeral doom, drone, as well as depressive black metal and even moments of piano-led beauty. It’s one of the most bleak records to have come my way in some time, crushing down upon your soul, yet not without moments of (false) hope and redemption. Draw the curtains and seclude yourself: this one is dark.
Introductory track “Stagnant Reality” is something of a false dawn, opening the album with gentle moments, but it’s with “Nocturnal Liberation” that A Slow, Painful Life shows its true face. Punishing, slow guitars and anguished vocals combine, producing something very unsettling and tortured. It’s not an easy listen, sounding somehow wrong in a manner that is impossible to identify exactly. “Separation Of State And Mind” is no easier, though the guitar line rising above the murk gives the listener something clear to hold on to whilst Lunarsapian conjure chaos and misery around them. Imagine if your favourite one-man depressive black metal act turned their hand to doom instead, and you have an idea of the music and atmosphere Lunarsapian so successfully create.
Thankfully, as if the band recognised just how oppressive the music is and that it would lose impact if they carried on solely in such a bloody-minded manner, there are moments of respite. “The Ever Winding Path”, placed halfway through the album, places a haunting, beautiful piano melody to the fore, yet the samples placed behind it mean it never gets too comfortable. It is a very stark contrast to the rest of the album though, to the extent that it can be quite jarring upon initial listens.
The second half of the album, for me, is where Lunarsapian really shine. “Warriors Of Nione” is a relatively straight-forward blackened doom track, built upon a solid riff and kept to a fairly concise running time; whilst closer “Immortal” comes close to Godflesh-esque industrial metal, with crushing guitars and pounding rhythms, as well as dramatic keys and choirs toward the end. In between them, the title track showcases the band at their best, building up from a slow introduction in to a blackened doom behemoth, incredibly heavy and bleak, scornful in its hate and sorrow. This is where Lunarsapian are at their most powerful, taking their time to build the song up to full power, reveling in the – yes – slow, painful sounds they create.
It should hardly need stating, but A Slow, Painful Life is not an easy album to get in to; there are a lot of elements at play here, and it can take time to see how they all align (especially “The Ever Winding Path”, which is perhaps too great a contrast to really work as well as it should, though you have to admire the ambition it shows). But, for those looking for nihilistic darkness to dwell within, there is a lot to appreciate on A Slow, Painful Life; it is commendable just how cruel and hurtful this album is. It’s not one for gentle background listening, but when the mood takes you, the misery of A Slow, Painful Life is something to behold.
A Slow, Painful Life can be streamed and downloaded via Bandcamp.