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