the-von-deer-skulls_the-rest-is-silenceTo state the obvious, it’s my allotted task to listen to music and quantify it as best I can so that your delicate, little shell-like ears can filter out the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Ironically, The Von Deer Skulls run the gamut of all three. When faced with a band billed as progressive post-doom, how on earth could my pretentious urges refuse? They couldn’t – but they were taught a serious lesson in the process. Hailing from France, Germany and Canada, this mask wearing trio have climbed out of the E.P’s and into their first full length, The Rest Is Silence, and let me tell you, I’ve been through the wringer with this one.

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure and as a veritable reveler in the doom Kool-Aid, I was rather excited to hear this, but I was somewhat taken aback to find that The Von Deer Skulls go the distance in redefining avant-garde metal. With a tag like post-doom, I was expecting some degree of progression but I wasn’t prepared for the angular, atonal post-rock that ensued. Opener “Strong and Fragile” greeted me with jarring open E strings and a blend of whispered narrations and background wails. When frontman and guitarist Peter Von Deer Skull finally commits to lead vocals, his voice is a heavily accented, hoarse rasp, which gives the album some of its more metallic inflection. Monotone, singular riffs often abruptly change to arbitrary ambient chords, with the vast majority of The Rest Is Silence a melting pot of progressive and post elements, all channeled through a blueprint of doom. The effect is akin to a deconstructed Triptykon in the record’s denser moments.

As potentially impenetrable as this was at first glance, after my obligatory dozen or so spins, the album began to flower somewhat. “The Fall of The Raven” contains some of the album’s more traditionally musical passages with a recognizably driving rhythm, ending with a fantastically understated solo. Later, “Tabula Rasa” lifts the pace with a distinctly punk energy until album highlight, “Fake Me” mutates into a crust fueled blast-fest in its final throws. Now, the third paragraph is customarily where I’ll set aside a portion of my indispensable word count to separate the cons from the pros. Oddly, it’s the same argument for The Rest Is Silence’s greatness that will, in the ears of some, seal its fate. This is not an album conducive to anything less than your undivided attention. Its murky, experimental bleakness will either entirely appeal or wholly repel. The Von Deer Skulls are not, it seems, capable of inhabiting the grey area.

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Stun Von Deer Skull has to take the award for unspoken hero – his drumming, full of tasteful fills and rolls, give the tracks much of their character but never intrude or dominate the song. In fact, despite the bands overt experimentation, the concept of restraint is pervasive throughout the entire album. Each track builds a slow crescendo, only to cut off abruptly before its zenith, denying the listener that sense of satisfaction [We call that “Blue metal” around here.Steel Druhm]. Creativity is surely the key to The Von Deer Skulls, considering their outward theatricality – which was why I was a tad surprised to find that the album is unnecessarily loud. At DR4 the rest really is silence. Even still, it’s remarkable how an album full of keys, bows and even bagpipes manages to perpetuate such a desolate sound.

I was struck by how dependent on circumstance and mood The Rest Is Silence truly is. On my first spin, I didn’t like this at all – Its weird nature was pure David Lynch, poured into my ears via a funnel carved from Dali’s coccyx, and I didn’t have the slightest inclination to wrap my head around its pretentious tinkerings. After the third listen, I found I was absorbing more and more of the band’s eccentricities, and although, truthfully, I won’t be listening to it as much now that the review is complete, I’m glad I gave it the time. The Von Deer Skulls make their listeners earn their bones and squarely straddle the line between love and abject hate. This is explicitly extrovert material with introvert appeal. If you decide to dally with The Rest Is Silence, make sure to give it the gestation period it deserves – you’ll either thank me, or hate me… Let’s just see what arrives on my doorstep.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Wraith Productions
Websites: thevondeerskulls.bandcamp.com | thevondeerskulls.com | facebook.com/TheVonDeerSkulls
Releases Worldwide: October 31st, 2016

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  • Oscar Albretsen

    That album cover just screams “doom metal.” I couldn’t get into it my first listen. Like the reviewer, it just seemed too strange for my immediate liking, but it does sound like something I could unravel after repeated listenings. Just not sure I’m gonna give it a chance.

  • Bart the Repairman

    Fortunately I’m not a reviewer and I don’t have to give this pretentious crap a dozen chances.

    • Zach Ward

      I couldn’t be a reviewer. It’d be impossible for me to listen to an album I didn’t like 10 times. So like you I won’t give this extra tries, just plain bad.

  • Treble Yell

    “Its weird nature was pure David Lynch, poured into my ears via a funnel carved from Dali’s coccyx”

    Great line and review.

  • GardensTale

    This kind of shit is hard to review, good job. Definitely not my jam.

  • Bruce Jones

    I don’t see what is so pretentious about this. 99% of doom, stoner and metal is just “more of the same”. This is different. It is not really “try hard” different. By that I mean that it doesn’t seem like they are just throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks. It has an organic feel. It shows a lot of imagination and variety. I find it to be perfectly listenable. Hopefully I will get to see them live. Thanks for the review.

    • Bart the Repairman

      My whole view of art could be ultimately distilled to one sentence: content first, than comes the form. These guys seem to focus on the latter (masks, theatrics, weird names etc.), but things like melody, harmony and rhythm (read: musical content) are present in trace amounts, like peanuts on every processed food product’ ingredients list.
      Though my opinion isn’t the most valid one, after hearing just one track.

      • Bruce Jones

        I think herrschobel said much more eloquently what I was trying to say. It does seem coherent.
        I too quite often dismiss albums (hey, I’m old) after just a few minutes of listening. With so much music out there these days, if something doesn’t grab you immediately, it’s easy to move on. The problem is that, quite often, what grabs our attention is the familiar. You end up with a pile of music that sounds pretty much the same. Leastwise, I tend to. It takes a bit of effort to broaden your taste. If I hadn’t put in the effort these last years, I would still be listening solely to music from the 70’s. Nothing wrong with UFO but ‘been there, done that’. Now, I am looking forward to seeing Fallujah next week.
        In this case, forget about the video, masks and the imagery. Put on some headphones, sit back and give the full album a listen. You might be surprised. At least you will know for sure.

        • Bart the Repairman

          Words of wisdom.
          I agree totally, I like challenging, surprising music too (prog/technical stuff especially), but this just makes me alergic… Maybe someday I’ll be in the right mood for this kind of weirdness. Have fun on that Fallujah gig.

  • Aguy

    Just to offer a different opinion from the other comments, I’m a fan of a certain amount of bizarre, pretentious crap, and I’m digging this right away. It’s certainly no less listenable or more stupid than Darkspace, Author and Punisher, Nortt…

  • herrschobel

    i like this. pretentious seems a tad bit unfair. i can only find Art pretentious when i sense an overall pretentious (fake) attitude, which is usually connected to the Personality of it´s Makers. These guys seem to inhabit a coherent aesthetic space they created on their own. so in their own logic they are very truthful and ‘real’. it´s good.

    • Willem Stander

      Your comment was so spot on that I logged in to up vote and simultaneously give the embed a listen. Good form.

      • herrschobel

        it´s good, ey ?

        • Willem Stander

          I do like it. Also, new Diablo Swing Orchestra soon™.

  • junkyhead

    When there’s Triptykon citation i’m immediately prompted to give it a listen, and boy, great stuff.

  • Reese Burns

    For a review that name drops Triptykon, this record is a bit… underwhelming. Not bad, just nothing that grabs me.

    • Ferrous Beuller

      The record has quite a dense overtone which is reminiscent of that band – but no, the quality difference is vast.

      • Reese Burns

        Speaking of Triptykon though, a new album from them wouldn’t be unwelcome right about now.

        • Ferrous Beuller

          Best believe.

  • Kronos Sr.

    I saw the cover and thought Kronos, but this doesn’t seem to fit his genre. It was still an interesting track to have in the background while working.

  • SelfIndulgence

    Is this a new Ziltoid video?