Depressed Mode – Decade of Silence Review

When I first saw the name, “Depressed Mode,” I assumed it was an homage to synth-rock icons, Depeche Mode. Nope. Turns out, these Fins are being literal. That’s their thing. Even their album names are literal. Decade of Silence is the third album after 2009’s For Death and follows a decade(ish) of… er… silence. Depressed Mode plays symphonic doom in the vein of… well… it’s complicated. While the bulk of Decade of Silence is a combination of the maudlin bits of Swallow the Sun played at the pace of Shape of Despair with the over-the-top symphonic elements of SepticFlesh, there’s so much more, and it’s kinda bonkers. At least five different vocal styles, blast beats that appear outta nowhere, more violins than a Hans Zimmer score… Let’s just say that Decade of Silence is all the metal. But is it too much metal?

The major issue with Decade of Silence is how overwrought it is. Metal has never been a subtle brand of music (and God bless it for that), and over-the-top symphonics are often part of the fun. But you get the feeling that Depressed Mode want you to take this all very seriously. Certainly, the subject matter is no joke. Lines such as, “I wait for my suicide, as the night takes my pain away” and “Now I’m broken. Here I lie. Is this how I die?” are explicit about the hopelessness the band is trying to convey. The problem is that it’s all so over-emphasized and overstated that much of the impact is lost. If art is a magic trick, manipulating you to feel something without you knowing it, Decade of Silence telegraphs with neon lights the rabbit in the top-hat, deflating any sense of wonder. There’s barely a climax that isn’t needlessly augmented with heaving crescendos of violins; nary a moment of quiet that doesn’t have a delicately tinkling piano. It often feels like those old-school cards they used to hold up while filming sitcoms, instructing the live audience how to react.

The other problem the album has is bloat. Decade of Silence is over an hour long, and none of the songs are under five and a half minutes. Few of them justify this length. There are long sections scattered throughout where passages simply repeat themselves (“Parasites of Mind”), or where the track meanders dolefully to a dead-end before jumping to a new section (“Endless November”). Depressed Mode tries to cover these deficiencies by throwing the kitchen sink at the listener—female vocals, black metal-esque detours, minor keys—but they can’t hide the fact that there is simply too much chaff here and not enough wheat.

On the plus side, when the band plays metal and stops worrying so much about being a movie soundtrack, there is some good stuff. Opener, “Death Walks Among Us” has a pleasing, SepticFlesh feeling, and uses the symphony to create drama and expectation before guitars and drums take over with aplomb. It’s exciting and dynamic and highlights the best of what the band is capable of. It’s a pity it’s an exception to the album, not the rule. When “Dissociation of the Extinguished Mind” rocks out at its midpoint with a slamming riff, you realize the absolutely epic potential this genre has (potential that, arguably, has not been expanded upon since Fleshgod Apocalypse’s King). Flashes like this are all the more frustrating, however, because they’re buried in an avalanche of overplayed orchestration.

Decade of Silence is a frustrating listen. There is so much content here but it all adds up to frustratingly little. It lacks the sincerity of Swallow the Sun, the irreverent fun of SepticFlesh, or the catharsis of great funeral doom. It wants to be taken seriously but undermines that seriousness through an almost comic overuse of symphony and the presence of serious bloat. Despite these setbacks, there are glimmers of what the band can offer. Depeche Mode were masters of subtlety. Maybe Depressed Mode should take some clues from the band whose name they so closely mimic.

 


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Inverse Records
Website: depressedmodedoom.bandcamp.com  |  facebook.com/depressedmodedoom
Releases Worldwide: May 6th, 2022

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