In November of 2017, Finland’s Desolate Shrine released Deliverance From the Godless Void, an album so full of death and depth it would have been my AotY had it not released so late. While this year has furnished us with a selection of stirring doom albums, it still falls to Desolate Shrine mastermind L.L to concoct the most immersive and crushing of them all. Convocation is a project that balances L.L’s multi-instrumental talents with the vocals of M. Neuman of fellow Finns Dark Buddha Rising. The resulting debut, Scars Across, is a remorseless trek through tortured terrain that never departs from its impending pace. You’ve heard Mournful Congregation, you’ve heard Un, but if you didn’t hear Convocation, then your mottled soul has yet to be truly ravaged in 2018.
Scars Across is a resounding success due to its excellent songwriting. Despite the protracted pace, there is more dynamism propelling the material than much of the more energetic fare you’ve sampled this year. L.L has written a beautiful, if nightmarish, album that manages to strike the perfect balance between the atmosphere and ambience of both men’s respective bands. However, this never comes at the expense of memorability. With such slow, long-form material, the songs manage to be consistently engaging. “Disposed” accomplishes this by supplementing the broad guitar lines with lonely piano keys to further enhance the solitary mood. Fortunately, the album never shies away from brief forays into planet-sized riffing. Entire swathes of “Ruins of Ourselves” reminds us that death metal is still inexorably part of the equation. A concept firmly cemented by L.L’s improvised flurries behind the kit.
As creative as the ever-changing doom landscape that L.L has crafted is, Neuman’s vocals are pivotal to the album’s impact. He alternates between a huge death roar and the hoarse growls that typically pervade Dark Buddha Rising. But most intriguing are his evocative pseudo-melodic cleans on “Allied POWs.” The song promotes the album’s ghostly nuances as Neuman’s piercing shrieks and lamentations emanate up from the ether. The lead guitar tone stretches over cathedral-crushing rhythms to dance on the back of the neck before the song fades away and the title track weeps into life. A stunning piano heralds “Scars Across” as the song expands to consolidate the record’s miserable themes, as all good finales should.
Scars Across is an album best enjoyed alone, when dusk swallows dawn so the music can better pierce the veil it surely lies beyond. Convocation is more than just a detour en route to a new Desolate Shrine album. It’s an excellent incursion into its own dimension of suffocating gloom. One that stands as a grim reminder to always rage against the dying of the night, and never to go gently into that treacherous, pallid light.
Tracks to Check Out: There are only four. So fucking all of them.