Death of Giants – Ventesorg Review

Grief is both intensely personal, and a commonality between us all. This admixture of the private and the relatable can make music through which it is channeled incredibly powerful. In a genre like doom, already associated with the melancholy and the morose, these emotions fit naturally and reinforce both the sense of sadness and the potency of the music itself. The recent output of Swallow the Sun initially springs to mind. Death of Giants is another such act. A doom project created by Frail Grounds vocalist Morten Søbyskogen to process the loss of his wife to brain cancer, it is musically and conceptually bleak. But, as is often the case with the most miserable of music, it is beautiful. Channeling not only Søbyskogen’s personal tragedy, but the somber and softly dramatic stylings of Draconian, My Dying Bride, and the aforementioned Swallow the Sun, it packs an alluring, emotional punch.

Ventesorg takes its name from the Danish word for ‘anticipatory grief,’ thus aptly describing the reality of living under the shadow of a partner’s terminal diagnosis. Across its six tracks, all is laid bare through Søbyskogen’s growls, solemn spoken word, and wailing singing. “How can we live/A lifetime in less than two years” (“A Sense of Urgency”). “Death/And it’s horrid sense of finality[…]I hoped for some more days/Just, some more days” (Das Ende ist Da”). Not only incredibly affecting in meaning, the grief and desperation is palpable in his voice, whether in the way it almost falters and breaks, or shrieks with anguish. Spoken-word can be polarising, but here it adds a humanity and reinforces the reality of the tragedy being described, adding a very immediate drama (“Distance,” “A Sense,” “Das Ende…”). Søbyskogen also demonstrates how versatile of a vocalist he is, capable of gut-wrenching gutturals, piercing shrieks, and operatic cleans, often shifting effortlessly from one to the next in impressive fashion. It personally took me a bit of time to warm up to those cleans, as they approach a heavy metal keen, almost off-key at times. But there is absolutely no denying their passion, and they ended up flagrantly violating my tastes as the music wormed its way into my head, and my heart.

Of course, it’s not only lyrically and vocally emotional; the melodic doom that spans the spectrum from classical to death speaks volumes. With a loose thread of a running theme across the record, sadness drips from every melancholy refrain. Sometimes fragile: the barely accompanied soft keys of a piano, weeping strings, and delicate strumming (“Premonition,” “Distance,” “Das Ende…”). Sometimes sturdy: crashing chords and spiraling solos (“Was it All a Dream?,” “A Sense…”). Equally powerful. Quiet and soft as they are, these rippling acoustic notes carry intense feeling. They also form a ring composition to the whole, opening and closing the album, and appearing in variation throughout. The subtly varied takes on doom seem chosen specifically to hammer home the heartache. The funereal growls and rising guitar of “Distance,” with its Draconian profundity make its solemn spoken word and string refrain envelop you in sorrow. The lamenting slow chords and My Dying Bride-esque strings of “Was…” and “A Sense…” are flatly wretched. The plaintive piano, emphatically beating drums, tremolo, and electronica-tinged climax of “Das Ende…” makes for a fittingly cathartic end, channeling, as it does, the raw emotion of the whole, and a theatrical finality that Swallows the Sun.

Ventesorg is also a very well-constructed album, pitched perfectly to achieve what it sets out to do, without dragging the listener down through excessive length or repetition. Each piece fits naturally to tell the story, and carry the melodies through their next iterations. Even the cover of Maiden’s “Only the Good Die Young” works brilliantly, both thematically and in the way Søbyskogen transforms the song into a hard-hitting ballad of epic soloing and cleans that escalate to screams. And whereas one might otherwise complain about a short intro track, “Premonition”‘ feels an appropriate prelude with its despondent singing that introduces the musical and conceptual theme. In being so successful in communicating this theme, it is incredibly sad, and you might find yourself reaching for the tissues before it’s over. This speaks not against the album, but for it, as the music allures even as it makes you cry.

There is a time and place for profoundly emotional music. Death of Giants assertively occupies that position. Deeply affecting and tragically poignant, Ventesorg is beautiful too. A piece of sadness to welcome into one’s life.

Rating: Very Good
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Release
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: May 12th, 2023

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