I don’t know of many downfalls that could be described as majestic, nor had I previously crossed paths with these Mexican mercenaries, the brainchild of Jacobo Córdova from Zombiefication and various other underground bands. Perusing their background I discovered Majestic Downfall have been kicking round the traps for the best part of a decade, with …When Dead marking their fourth Long Player. Going into a review with the element of surprise can certainly swing both ways, but it does eliminate the inflated expectations and inevitable letdowns attached to albums that come with giddy amounts of anticipation. Majestic Downfall play a raw and beastly brand of death/doom delivered in typically barbaric and brutal Mexican style. Eschewing the more polished and sophisticated elements of the Euro dominated scene, Majestic Downfall opt for a far more primal take on the style which rewards patience and makes for a largely satisfying listen.
Aside from the short and atmospheric instrumental title track which opens the album in a trudging, mournful fashion, …When Dead features four mountainous compositions, each towering over the ten-minute mark. Certainly this isn’t a unique aspect of death/doom, yet pulling off the feat through interesting song-writing and smart dynamics while avoiding the pitfall of the songs dissolving into plodding snoozefests is a no easy task. Although not without some rough spots, …When Dead succeeds due to a snifter of innovation, engaging melodies and the lurching, pitiful atmosphere Majestic Downfall create. The success of death/doom often relies on how effectively bands are able to drag the listener through an emotional hellhole and still manage to write engaging material emphasizing the push-pull dynamics of the two styles. Thankfully Majestic Downfall find success on their mission of misery.
Ugly bursts of dense, chaotic death blasting punctuate the proceedings and serve to accentuate the trudging doom at the album’s core. There’s a barbaric, unhinged intensity to these segments which lends the material a loose, unrefined charm, further highlighting the epic slow march and dark beauty of the well-crafted melodies. “Escape my Thought” is the longest track at a hefty 15 minutes but wastes no time exploding with a flurry of blackened death blasts and tremolo melodies. The violent beginning suddenly plunges into an almost funeral doom plod which leads into numerous twists and turns of expert pacing and song-writing dynamics. Sure, a couple of sections drag slightly but for the most part the band succeeds in pulling off the epic length. On top of Majestic Downfall’s formidable compositional skills sit Córdova’s thick guttural growls, forming the perfect accompaniment to the album’s slash and crawl dynamics, while his carefully placed guitar solos are classy ripples of energy and finesse cutting through the gloom.
Much of the execution and musicianship is fairly straightforward, with the band often reveling in simplicity. The brutish stomp of the aptly titled “The Brick, The Concrete” reflects this point, but is so well-crafted that it sucks you in for the lengthy duration, culminating in a highly memorable extended climax over its last four minutes. Here Majestic Downfall showcase their song-writing smarts and dynamics in all their bleak and triumphant glory, while Córdova produces an emotive vocal performance, summoned from deep down in some dark and tortured place. After an impressive first half I had my doubts whether the final two acts, “Doors” and “The Rain of the Dead,” had the legs to carry on the momentum. Fortunately both songs feature their own unique flavors and enough standout moments to maintain the crawling rage. “Doors” in particular is a sorrowful slab featuring blackened funeral doom and aggressive death elements along with gut-wrenching melodies that burrow underneath your skin.
My main issues with …When Dead are fairly minor but prevented me from giving it a higher score. As impressive as the album is, the more compelling moments stick out significantly and relegate the surrounding material to merely ‘solid’ status, while occasionally the epic length of the songs results in some sluggishness creeping in. On the production front, the rough imperfections of Majestic Downfall’s sound are well supported by a gritty, nicely balanced and punchy sonic vessel with solid definition afforded to each instrument (the bass plays a strong role throughout the album). Sure, a wider dynamic range would have opened things up and created valuable impact to the contrasting elements, and the blasty segments are a bit muddled, but it’s otherwise a respectable job all round.
Majestic Downfall may not have the profile of some of the death/doom big guns, but they more than hold their own on …When Dead, presenting an addicting slab of dejected sorrow that punches above its weight.