If I have any heroes who aren’t me, Belgian multi-instrumentalist/one-man-melancholia-sweatshop Déhà is surely on that short list’s short list. The dude’s metal archives page is enough to make even Jørn feel glumly insignificant, and if the sheer quantity of that mass ov music doesn’t get you then the pervading depressive quality of most of it will. Be it the spirit-swallowing funeral doom of Slow, the tortured DSBM cacophony of Ter Ziele, or the chill cynicism of Nadddir‘s blackened cloud rap (think a depressed, grown-up Post Malone who sometimes screams, then give it a shot when your mind is open and your vomit’s been cleaned up), Déhà’s use of music as a means to channel bipolar depression is something that frequently resonates in my heart holes as well as my ear holes. My point: I knew there was no way I’d be objectively qualified to handle reviewing such a surefire goldmine of top-tier tearful tunes. I concede this point, but riddle me this: since when am I qualified to review anything, yo?
It should come as no surprise that
this is getting a 4 Cruel Words is a slow burn. Not a Slow, funeral-doom burn – not all the time, anyway – but it’s a plodder, all the same. “Pain is a Wasteland” is the briefest of the melancholic lot, flying by at a breakneck 7:13, and it’s all uphill all the way to 12:49 (“Dead Butterflies”) from there. These tracks take their time to tell their tales, living out their pain in full detail rather than condensing it into succinct 3-4 -minute crib notes. Atmosphere and feeling are everything here, if you came for violent headbanging or a quick riffie then you should probably exit the Hall and tend to that yourself, maybe give Acathexis a go to avoid you me having completely wasted my your time here.
If you haven’t been scared away to your Ritalin-littered safe spaces, here’s what you can expect from Cruel Words:
greatness fifty shades of musical grey, some technically being blackened but that’s less punny. The somber yet eerily tense minimalist post-metal of “Dead Butterflies,” for example, feels like the onset of a panic attack, capturing the sound and practically causing such a storm when it all explodes in crashing cymbals, harrowing shrieks and cranked up amplifiers. On the sadder side of the spectrum, “Blackness in May” sticks to this same ‘serenity simmering into an explosion’ style with a more post-black sheen. Traces of sludge and doom wash up along the coastline of Cruel Words‘ tracklist, as well, and though listeners will stumble across differently gleaming bits ov musical sea glass at each spot, they will invariably find themselves overtaken by a sonic wave of surging volume and churning emotion if they stand still long enough. As is often the case with Déhà, this music is not meant to bring you joy.
No one likes being sad. Nevertheless, confronting our fears head-on is a valuable habit to adopt; I’ve been bipolar for roughly ever. A few years ago I discovered Déhà‘s works and subsequently the first songs I’d ever heard that actually sounded and felt like manic depression. And while I don’t necessarily love every emotional response that bands like Slow illicit from me, I do love and appreciate literally hearing someone who understands that world. While it’s understandable if the sound of sadness isn’t your scene, the ability to evoke raw emotion is what art is all about, and to that end, Cruel Words is very much a work of art. It’s an invocation of turmoil, a confrontation with dolor and an opportunity to overcome the same. A bit formulaic with it’s consistent build-build-BOOM compositional approach, perhaps, yet the cathartic nature and payoff of these tracks makes this pretty much par for the course, hardly doing the listening experience a disservice.
is isn’t flawless. The mix is just as squashed as the cruel laws ov otherwise wonderful albums dictate, and it does this annoying thing at the 10:18 mark of “Cruel Words” where the album ends. With its trudging stride, staunch avoidance of joy and relative structural predictability, this one may not be for everyone. On the other hand, with its cold emotional grip and its bloody-sleeved honesty, this one may be too much in the best, worst way. However you spin it, Cruel Words is a well of emotion that both giveth to and drowneth listeners, an unsettling testimony to the powers of creative expression and the dark side of the mind.