Grief can seemingly last forever. Whether you’re actively working through it or just passively experiencing its various stages, grief is a marathon, not a sprint. Excitement, on the other hand, is always fleeting. Moments of joy, fright or rage flare up and burn out quickly. Excitement is not a state that can be sustained for long. Grief, sorrow, despondency, these can last indefinitely. There’s a reason grindcore albums never break 30 minutes while funeral doom albums stretch well past an hour. If it takes time to experience, it will take time to express. But listening to the genre at its best isn’t about being patient, as if there’s some reward at the end. It’s more about allowing yourself to be borne along by the slow process. Minneapolis, Minnesota’s Chalice of Suffering—612, represent—is here to take you on a long journey through the deepest despair. Will it hurt so good, or are they just going through the slow motions?
Lost Eternally, the band’s second full-length, is 62 minutes of depressive death doom that relies on atmosphere over outright heaviness to bring the sad. Through lines can be drawn to early genre luminaries My Dying Bride and Thergothon, as well as more recent synth-driven funeral doom a la Shape of Despair. Liberal use of keyboards on a variety of settings are a staple of the seven songs on offer, as well as a litany of guest musicians and vocalists. Notable among the guest spots is Kevin Murphy’s restrained turn on the bagpipes near the end of opener “In the Mist of Once Was,” a moment indicative of Chalice of Suffering‘s attention to sonic detail. Lost Eternally utilizes a wider range of aural textures than your average “crushing” death doom. Vocalist John McGovern is as likely to whisper as he is to growl, and the guitar work by Will Maravelas and Nikoley Velev, while appropriately weepy, maintains its own space and rarely becomes the wall of distortion one expects from the genre.
At its best, Lost Eternally mixes the majestic with the morose. The album’s title track features rolling guitar lines and oscillating synths that propel the song like a ship at sea. “Emancipation of Pain” features guest vocals by Danny Woe of Woebegone Obscured that will have metalheads holding invisible fruit aloft in solidarity. Also picking up temporary mic duty is Justin Buller of Wolvenguard on “The Hurt,” and his croaking death growl is an effective counterpoint to the stately, funereal march that unfolds around it. Twin guitars chime and weave around synthesized choirs and stuttering drums on one of the best death doom songs of 2019. Across all of this, Chalice of Suffering maintain a consistent, almost impenetrably dusky mood.
Lost Eternally revels far more in atmosphere than in riffs. Because of this, some songs seem to be composed entirely of intros, bridges and interludes strung together. Closer “Whispers of Madness” features a simple repeating guitar line, ethereal synths and McGovern occasionally speak-growling the lyrics one or two words at a time. It plays like one long atmospheric mid-section that should be bracketed by huge riffs. The long intro of “Forever Winter” is similarly composed, and even when a guitar line crashes in around the 3:30 mark, its punchiness is relative only to the other subdued instruments. Speaking of subdued, aside from the guest vocals, Lost Eternally is essentially a spoken word metal album. McGovern delivers at least half the lyrics in a dry monotone. Even his growls are often spoken, trading volume in favor of intimacy. This dearth of either forceful riffs or vocals means there are almost no moments of cathartic release. The vocal stylings carry the added drawback of allowing the unfortunately clichéd lyrics to be easily deciphered.
All this said, the issues with Lost Eternally are more a matter of taste than an indicator of the band’s ability to pull off what they aim for. It’s an album that takes time to digest, just as grief takes time to experience. Chalice of Suffering‘s approach is subdued, even for funeral doom. The lack of louder moments and the deadpan vocal delivery are elements I find I can tolerate more often than not because the instrumental textures and doleful melodies are top notch. Want to lose yourself in dreariness for a solid hour? Get Lost Eternally.