Doom/death is a genre that’s really gotten under my skin over the past few years. And it seems to have left some kind of egg or parasitic hanger on, since I hunger for it more and more. That however, comes with a big caveat: it must be utterly doused in mood and atmosphere or be so insanely heavy it causes sinkholes. It’s just not enough to growl over slow cords anymore. No siree, Bob, I need a whole lot of darkness, menace and enough dread to satisfy even the Dread Pirate Roberts. Dwell‘s Vermin and Ashes debut is a solid beginning that gets a lot of things right (as you might expect from a band made up entirely of members of well-regarded doom death act Cerekloth), and has all the requisite Celtic Frost and Winter influences, but sadly, there’s something missing here that keeps it from making the soul-crushing impact I expected.
The boys reveal their playbook early with opener “A Collapse Sublime,” which is paint-by-numbers doom/death offering nothing new at all. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t effective and enjoyable. Jens Pedersen’s raspy death croaks are as effective here as on the Cerekloth material and the man knows how to sound demonic and agonized. The dirgy, Celtic Frost riffs are heavy enough, and the band weaves in some nice counter harmonies that recall old Cemetery. All things considered, it’s a convincing product.
Then things get weird, as follow up “Pathless and Dormant” is an ambient piece a lot like what Lustmord was doing on material like “Blackstar.” It’s a collection of weird noises, insect buzzing and distortion and it’s surely creepy, but at over five minutes, it’s way too long to wait for the band to get back into the game. This ambient vacation is repeated later with “Become the Void” and again, it feels like an overlong distraction from the actual business of dooming and deathing and it disrupts the album’s flow.
When they do get back to the metal, “Vermin in My Arteries” is solid enough, mixing faster riffs with the traditional grinders as Pedersen goes apeshit on the mic. I’m a fan of the melodic but glum melodies they work in, some of them sounding rather Cirith Ungol-fied, but the main riffs suffer from sounding, in the words of one Lars Ulrich, “kind of stock.”
The highlight is “Plunging Into Ash Tombs” and its blackened atmosphere and intensified Celtic Frost adoration. The Tom G. Warrior note bending near the end is a joy and the song benefits from an oddly epic feel and a deranged urgency the rest of the material lacks.
At a mere 37 minutes and just six songs, this is a short album. I’m all for that, but the inclusion of the two ambient pieces makes it feel more like a padded EP. If they had worked the ambient elements into their sound in a more direct made more sense. As separate pieces though, they feel like attempts to cover a lack of material.
Pedersen does a fine job on vocals, though I could do without his little chirps and woofing sounds. Allan B. Larson’s (Cerekloth, Altars of Oblivion) guitar work is interesting, but a bit inconsistent. He seems better at crafting ear-pleasing melodic harmonies than central riffs, but he gets the job done more often than not. I absolutely love the drum sound here, which is crisp, punchy and organic, though neither of the two session drummers are asked to do a whole lot behind the kit.
I’d describe Vermin and Ashes as a partial victory, as it leaves me curious where the band goes from here, but the material is a fair bit below Cerekloth‘s output. Since this is essentially the same band, I’m at a loss why they even bothered with the name change, but they did, and here we are with something respectable but non-essential in the state of Denmark.
Editor’s Note: Henceforth, when a band is too kvlt to provide band photos and we’re unable to find suitable images on the interwebs, we will resort to unicorn shaming. Harsh, we know, but they brought it on themselves.