If endlessly overused adages are to be believed, one might presume all Texas exports to tower over their non-Texan counterparts. I trust silly axioms about as much as I trust the Lone Star State, yet all the biases in the world cannot negate the fact that Dallas’ Dead to a Dying World delivered something downright tremendous with their sophomore full-length, Elegy. A colossal comprisal of epic atmospheric touches, devastating doom and sombre string-ed subtleties reflecting on the lost cause that is humanity, the album is certainly big enough for Texas and melancholic enough for Muppet. However, what makes this album deserving of such prodigious praise is its mastery of minutiae: it’s the little things that kill, yo, and Elegy is an obsidian Trojan horse, an imposing monolith loaded with legions of lethal low-key sonic assassins.
Elegy is comprised of three core tracks – namely, “The Seer’s Embrace,” “Empty Hands, Hollow Hymns” and “Of Moss and Stone” – which are loosely tied together by three peacefully contemplative interludes. While the interlude tracks (“Szygy,” “Vernal Equinox” and “Hewn from Falling Water”) are reposeful, delicately minimalist little ditties, the central songs are every bit as massive as all that nonsense from the intro paragraph implied. A decidedly doomy affair with progressive facets aplenty, the molten core of Dead to a Dying World is an ebony amalgamation of Shining, Swallow the Sun, and Pink Floyd – in other words, everything Anathema
should be could have been had they retained their salad day rage through their progression. Mournful clean passages redolent of Ghost Reveries -era Opeth gently ache their way into hulking, crushing tides of blackened doom, bringing Eneferens to mind and the sound ov sadness to life. Death growls, blackened screeches, plaintive bluesy lamentations and operatic cleans twist and turn through it all as needed, and this ebb and flow dichotomy of Elegy makes for quite the immersive experience, allowing everything to naturally coalesce into an emotionally gripping ordeal.
Granted, the doom tag and quasi obligatory 11+ minute runtime of the central songs may present a giant red flag emblazoned with ‘TOO BIG’ to some listeners. However, these tracks are not droning exercises in listless repetitive lurching, but rather darkly vibrant compositions full of life and understated intricacies. Eva Vonne (ex Sabbath Assembly) draws blood from the surrounding sonic stone via viola, chiseling into the crag and delicately instilling a sense of poignancy, rather than reigning over the parade and detracting attention from the sum a la Ne Obliviscerus. Elegy is also adorned with gently nuanced appearances by other atypical metal instrumentation, such as a Hammond organ and a hurdy gurdy, all similarly utilized with a healthy ‘less is more’ attitude. In direct defiance to that very same ethos, Dead to a Dying World‘s two ‘official’ vocalists, Mike Yeager and Heidi Moore, are joined by three additional guest singers; just like the instruments, these various vocal invasions are doled out in disciplined moderation, adding delicate hints of exquisite flavor without overpowering the surrounding delicacy. For all the eccentricity one could expect from such an arsenal, Dead to a Dying World display an admirable sense of restraint, holding and folding as the songs see fit in a welcome display of taste and compositional prowess.
As it traipses through its own sonic scenery, Elegy‘s gaze remains fixed on the ongoing Holocene extinction, delivering a real-time narrative of scenes from an apocalypse. A contemplative sense of impending doom is established right out the gate with the mellow, melancholic Panopticon bucolia of “Syzygy,” the looming threat of Armageddon feeling increasingly imminent as the album progresses. While the more openly hostile moments of Elegy evoke all the violence that such subject matter entails, the velvet one-two punch of “Hewn from Falling Water” and album closer “Of Moss and Stone” hits hardest of all; after being gently guided to airy, eerie ambient heights, everything is abruptly and mercilessly cast down to hopeless depths of black metal before dissolving into cacophonous feedback and, ultimately, silence – a perfect encapsulation of the bleakness of our
constant times. Defeat on the grandest scale is what Elegy is all about, and this ode to loss is very much a win.
The jury’s still out on whether or not everything is bigger in Texas, but make no mistake: Elegy is absolutely fucking gigantic. It will crush you under ten thousand tons of leaden doom and stab your lifeless body with a million tiny needles, refusing to release you from its fatal grasp until you have been thoroughly obliterated on every level. It isn’t brief, and it isn’t gentle – even when it is – but it is a darkly rewarding experience for those who endure, and it is certainly a contender for the coming listpocalypse.