Personal loss and despair have always been prime fodder for doom metal. The style basically exists to simulate the experiences of grief, sorrow and deprivation, tearing open the worst emotions in human existence and daring us to confront them. When you stop and think about it, it’s hard to understand why anyone would seek such music out. We will all suffer genuine loss. We will all hurt deeply and profoundly, and sometimes we will never truly move beyond it. Why then would we seek out facsimiles of such heartache? I don’t have the answer, but I do know that Collapse of Light have come to expose all your deepest pain and sadness on their debut Each Failing Step. Composed of members of Shape of Despair and Before the Rain, Collapse is a veteran unit with a keen insight into atmospheric doom death, and they use every trick in the book to make you hurt. Do you need that kind of thing in your life? I think you do.
With only 4 songs spread over 43 minutes, the mood is unrelentingly forlorn and bleak. The slow tempos approach funeral doom, but never quite get there, lingering instead in the same realm as Clouds and Saturnus as they throw cold, moist earth on the grave of your hope and joy. Soft, airy keys drift hypnotically for long stretches of time, joined by weeping violins, cellos and the haunting vocals of Natalie Koskinen (Shape of Despair). These mournful reveries are occasionally interrupted by thunderous doom riffs and deep, booming death roars, like the inner pain of a crippled soul erupting into visceral but futile cries against cruel fate. It’s a recipe you’ve tasted before, but it’s so well prepared here, you won’t care.
Opening dirge “A Place to Die” clocks in at a whopping 17 minutes, and I don’t mind at all. Every second is used to maximum effect to rend your soul and scorch whatever light shines in your world, leaving an emotional crater in which you will dwell, with only your regret and remorse for companionship. By the 3 minute mark you will have abandoned hope, and the remainder of the song exists to push you beyond hopelessness into something much darker. Natalie and Carlos D’Agua (Lethian Dreams, ex-Before the Rain) perform a mournful graveside duet that will depress your spirit, and when Carlos boils over into earth-shaking death roars, it’s a catharsis you will share but gain no relief from. By the 10th minute you are a shell of what you were, existing only to feel more pain. When it’s finally over, what will be left of you?
Two much shorter intersessional songs offer small moments of succor, but depression hangs over them like a burial shroud. “The Remains of the Day” features Natalie’s soft, sorrowful crooning supported by minimalist acoustic guitar, and it’s achingly beautiful in its dolorous pall. All the more so for knowing another marathon soul crusher is right around the corner in “Leaving the Light Behind.” At 14 minutes, Collapse of Light uses this closer to close the lid on you and all that is good in your world, swallowing it in a slow motion maelstrom of lament. Carlos comes close to Peter Steele levels of gothic perfection, with his dark baritone repeating a simple plea of “release me” as the song lurches to its final rest. It’s so stark and solemn, so doleful – it will leave scars.
The music and arrangements are stripped down and spartan in presentation. The guitar-work by Gonçalo Brito and Carlos Monteiro is minimalist, be it acoustic or electric. No flash, no sizzle, just respectfully grim tidings to all that has been lost. The vocals carry the most weight, with Natalie stunning with delicacy and grace, and Carlos raging against the dying of the light. The duo work amazingly well together, the beauty and the beast modality at its most refined and evocative.
Each Failing Step comes to us without hype or fanfare, and in truth, information about the band is very limited. It will likely pass many by and fade in the din and bustle of the year’s release schedule. That will be a shame, as there are more real emotions here than on any 10 typical metal albums. This is the soundtrack to despondency, and it shouldn’t rationally be something anyone seeks out, nor desires. But if found and experienced, it will reach you, reach into you and take a piece of you away. Let it.
DR: 11 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Rain Without End
Websites: naturmachtproductions.bandcamp.com/album/each-failing-step | facebook.com/Collapse.Of.Light
Releases Worldwide: April 29th, 2018