Do you remember the first time you heard Swallow the Sun‘s The Morning Never Came? How those crushing tones and shattering gutturals hit you like the saddest ton of cement ever and you thought that, indeed, the light would never grace your world again? How the subtle, folky elements added a sense of longing, while the sound of waves crashing made you feel lost in a sea of hopelessness and never being found? And above all, how fucking evocative that feeling was? And how you had to go bask in the sunlight to recover from it? That’s the feeling I had when I popped in Bewailer‘s debut album Where My Demise Dwells. This is melodic death/doom with a flair for melancholy and nostalgia, but how it holds up in light of a very crowded pool of slow and morose deathmongers is the question here.
Moscow, Russia’s Bewailer is a brainchild of the blackened Malist‘s sole member, Ovfrost, as well as former partner Flammarius. This influence lends a nicely sinister blackened edge to this debut’s melodic death/doom template, which revolves around crushingly lurching riffs, guttural roars, ambiance and organ, thunderous percussion, and astounding vocal variety, recalling the pantheon of low and slow greats such as Skepticism, Novembers Doom, and Mourning Beloveth. As a whole, while Where My Demise Dwells is set back by sonic inconsistency from track to track, it’s astoundingly solid for its youth and promises a fortune of doomy success.
Thankfully, although Bewailer‘s sound in many ways worships Swallow the Sun‘s legendary tricks, they play it close to the vest, only hinting at experimental and atmospheric elements with tantalizing restraint. Tracks like crazy-good opener “Thorngates,” bottom-heavy plodder “An Old Remembrance,” complex puzzler “Silent Passenger,” and the epic, instrumental closer “Silver Lining” check all the boxes off, including tastefully heavy riffs whose tone balances the razor’s edge between Ahab‘s older funeral doom dirges and The Fall of Every Season‘s relatively sanguine focus, hearkening the melodic death leanings of Hinayana or October Tide. Spoken word passages are dispersed throughout, tastefully used as emphasis and texture, and never feel forced or awkward, recalling the melancholic mumbles of Mourning Beloveth. “Moonspires” and “Nocturnal Sacrifice” are the most blackened of the bunch, lining ligaments of sinister shrieks and tremolo, as well as Novembers Doom-esque contemplative acoustic passages, atop the bare bones of doomy plods.
The only setbacks of Bewailer‘s debut lie in the consistencies between tracks and some occasional songwriting hi-jinks. While doom is certainly the common thread, there are times where the track focuses are jarringly different, such as the transition between the nearly sludgy affair that is “Endless Fall” and the blackened-centric “Moonspires”—individually they shine, but the track transitions are nonexistent, so they falter slightly. At times, it feels as if a track could go longer, but it very suddenly ends, such as the abrupt fade out of “Nocturnal Sacrifice” or “Silent Passenger.” Some tracks are not necessarily poor, just somewhat forgettable, most notably (or unnotably) “Endless Fall,” which plods along for six minutes without a whole lot of excitement.
Compared to other doom classics, Where My Demise Dwells is relatively bite-sized at forty-eight minutes, but it’s exactly what’s needed from these Muscovites. While it does little to reinvent the wheel, it pays homage without copying and pasting and its tricks are tasteful without feeling forced. What’s even more impressive is that this is a debut effort, so a sound this solid the first time around speaks volumes about the band’s future. There are certainly wrinkles to iron and songwriting to flesh out, but by the end of the album, I was hungry for more. Bewailer has succeeded in creating a death/doom album that puts its best foot forward in an extremely evocative and powerful album that revels in melancholy while yearning for something more.