Abysskvlt – Phur G. Yang Review

More than any other sub-genre of metal, funeral doom lends itself to introspection. Focused, as it is, on weighty and ponderous themes of death and suffering, it’s just not suited to breezy listens between dips in the sea while sipping a drink with an umbrella in it (or to AMG deadlines, for that matter). In fact, funeral doom is one of the few sub-genres that I can only really listen to at a specific time of day, when I’m in an appropriate frame of mind. What folk who don’t listen to this brand of music are missing out on, of course, is the payoff. Nothing hits quite like funeral doom. But sometimes, you have to work to get there. In the case of Russia’s Abysskvlt, you have to work extra hard because they’re serious about drawing their craft out. The question is, is this worth the time you’ll need to put into it?

Phur G. Yang (Flight Through the Abyss) is the third album from these melancholy Russians. I will confess I was not familiar with the band’s previous output, and given that Phur G. Yang is a honkin’ slab of funeral doom that took my entire review time just to get through, I wasn’t able to go back and check it out. Abysskvlt leans hard into the Eastern spiritual aspect of the music, with lyrics written and performed in Tibetan and Zhangzhung. The album is apparently about “Leaving” (no further elaboration is provided) and describes a spirit wandering the abyss beyond Samsara borders. Well, if the aim was to describe every step of this epic trek, the band has certainly succeeded. Phur G. Yang is 4 songs and 80 minutes of extremely dense, unrelenting funeral doom. Which, to be honest, is probably too much funeral doom.

The real problem with the album is its length. Now, before funeral doom fans bombard the comments section about that being the point, let me just say, I get it. I’m not expecting brevity. But there’s a reason that most songs in music are between 2 and 4 minutes, and why even most metal tracks stay within 10. Writing a 20 minute epic is just hard. To maintain thematic coherence while demonstrating progression and surprising the listener along the way is no mean feat. To do it while playing ultra-slow, ultra-dense metal is miraculous. Phur G. Yang has 4 of them, and, unfortunately, they simply don’t justify their lengths (between 16 and 26 minutes). There are some amazing moments, but they get buried by the bloat. “Nga-Ri” has a second half that combines Tibetan cymbals with a low, rumbling riff, and it’s superb. But you have to wade through nearly 8 minutes of fairly routine funeral doom dirge to get there. Some of the rasped vocals and dissonant sounds don’t combine effectively, with the effect of pulling the listener out of an experience that really should be immersive and meditative.

On the plus side, the atmosphere created by the guitars and instruments is superb. There are moments that are frightening, others that are uplifting. Some crush and some heal. Phur G. Yang really feels like a tumultuous journey, and ideally should be experienced in its entirety. The issue I found was carving out 80 continuous minutes when I was in a suitably deep mood for it. The Tibetan instruments are used sparingly, perhaps too sparingly, as there are long periods of time when they disappear entirely from the album. This means that when they appear they are very effective, but you sometimes wish they were integrated more seamlessly, rather than in the somewhat gimmicky way they are here.

Overall, Phur G. Yang is a dense, complex, rump-steak-thick slab o’ funeral doom with many great ideas and themes that unfortunately get lost in the swirl of 80 hulking minutes. This is disappointing, because it’s obvious that there is quality material here that just needed some judicious trimming and editing to get the most out of. Perhaps I’m just not kvlt enough for Abysskvlt, but I would love to see them tighten up, lean more heavily into the instrumental side of things, and focus on delivering the knock-out blow that this genre of music relies upon. Until then, this one is strictly for the funeral doom fans.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Solitude Productions
Website: facebook.com/abysskvlt
Releases Worldwide: May 14th, 2021

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