“The meaning of life is that it stops.” – Franz Kafka, doom metal luminary. If there’s one genre of our beloved tumult that, above all others, wants nothing more than to ponder death in all of its final implication, it’s, ironically, not death metal. Doom be thy name and death be Dautha‘s, a Swedish band plying the same Candlemasstery that incites many a metalhead to rage against the Dying of the Bride. Boasting current and ex-members of acts as diverse as Terrorama, Wardenclyffe and even Scar Symmetry, these Swedes follow firmly in their fellow countrymen’s legendary footsteps to prime an increasingly melodramatic iteration of that sweeping ultimate invocation, and debut, Brethren of the Black Soil, does it very well indeed.
Encumbered riffs, gothic dramatization and a penchant for the kind of classic compositions that made guitarist, Ola Blomkvist’s, Griftegård such a lamentably brief success are the order of the day, and such tenets make for welcome inclusions in what is, undeniably, adroitly composed doom metal. While the songwriting busies itself laying formidable foundations, Lars Palmqvist’s powerful voice engenders the record’s success with a level of histrionics the Messiah himself would no doubt approve of. Although lacking Marcollin’s famous vibrato, Palmqvist’s vocals boast an impressive perpetual tone that allows opener “Hodie Mihi, Cras Tibi” much of its infinitely memorable quality.
Brethren of the Black Soil‘s character can be described as a fusion of Candlemass and My Dying Bride, structured with the former’s rhythm and emphasized with the latter’s gothic sensibility; the combination makes for some epic material. As obvious doom aficionados, Dautha have rummaged deeply in those druid sleeves and pulled out all kinds of arcane tricks; “The Children’s Crusade” intermittently features a choir of Latin and not once does it detract from the impending riffage, instead building another huge sonic scenario. In fact, the band don’t really put too much of a foot wrong, and even when they do it’s something of a dichotomy. The title track is the slowest on the album opting for an almost proto-funeral pace, with mournful violins and a Swedish psalm-verse layered over the lyrics. Although the vocal patterns and refrain are very immediate, the song is over 15 minutes – now the thematic implication of a musical testament to the grand equalizer being overly extended isn’t lost on me, but the fact remains, it’s just too long, particularly as it seems to reach its natural conclusion around the 10 minute mark. Fortunately the imperial “Maximinus Thrax” follows on, with a notably more aggressive approach and pounding rhythm, matching the little-known emperor’s infamous temperament.
The riffing on the album could be considered somewhat homogeneous, recycling many of the same patterns throughout the record – fortunately, it’s a fucking good pattern and never failed to keep my head moving as I prowled through each darkened tale of Olde Europe. While variety is technically lacking, I suspect the album wasn’t ever envisioned as anything other than it is, and so the final product is perfectly formed, albeit a tad long. Although it doesn’t deviate too wildly, closer, “Bogbodies,” is the only possible exception, flirting with a darker atmosphere that affords Brethren of the Black Soil something of a macabre final musing and subtly hints at an acknowledgement of the album’s slight need for variation.
Dautha‘s debut is an undeniable and surprisingly intelligent trip through the annals of Europe’s heritage, both literary and historical. With classic riffs, an epic scope and a frontman more than willing to bleed every sanguine drop of drama into his craft, a little bloat and singular focus can just about be excused. I do hope to see a breaking of the traditional boundaries on a follow-up effort, but the fact is, I can’t stop playing Brethren of the Black Soil, and really that’s the best recommendation a reviewer can give. I’ll continue to blissfully wallow in this ode to the end, and you should too – after all, Dautha makes it so frighteningly easy.