It’s early in June, and last night we had the heating on. The wind was howling through the trees, rain battered against the window, and I sat shivering under my duvet, mourning for the summer. Few bands could provide such a suitable soundtrack as Deuil1. Their first album Acceptance/Rebuild appeared in 2013, combining doomy post and black metal into two long, winding tracks. On initial inspection new album Shock/Deny appears very similar to the debut, from the excellent monochrome cover to the arrangement of the music into two extended tracks. Have they managed to progress from their debut’s flawed but promising sound, or is this just Acceptance/Rebuild part deux?
After its minute-long intro, “Shock” reveals Deuil have made a slight stylistic shift. The song leans away from post-metal towards the sludgier end of doom, sounding more like Primitive Man jamming with Drudkh than the Isis/Wolves in the Throne Room blend of Acceptance/Rebuild. The simple, pummeling first riff would be at home on Primitive Man‘s last EP, or perhaps even an Indian record. But then, just as you’re about to get bored, they segue into straight-up black metal, hammering out a depressing Burzum-esque riff underpinned by frantic blastbeats. After all this depression and darkness, we are offered a moment of light with an uplifting riff that really belongs on Deafheaven‘s Sunbather. Our moment’s respite is short-lived though, lasting barely over a minute before we are plunged back into a brooding aural miasma. This dissonant doom dirge carries us through “Shock”’s remaining seven minutes, and while there is a little variation in the riff, it becomes stale rapidly.
Fortunately “Deny” improves matters greatly. The song begins with more slow, grinding dissonance, but the diseased harmonies and sickly guitars are far more engaging than the simple dreariness of “Shock,” creating a similarly bleak atmosphere to fellow Belgians Emptiness. When the blastbeats arrive, the transition to straight-up black metal sounds more natural, the riffs retaining some of the illness of the previous section while driving forward with imperious anger. The blasting eventually gives way to a droning, almost mellow post-metal soundscape, later surging back for one last assault before the track ends with an eerie outro of noise and reversed voices.
It must have been tricky to decide on how to mix this record, as traditionally black metal and sludge/doom emphasize different instruments and opposite ends of the frequency spectrum. Deuil have opted to go for a sound more suited to the black metal sections – it’s thick and surprisingly warm, but lacking a bit of sludgy power in the low end that prevents the slower riffs from delivering a suitably weighty impact. The record is also very consistent in volume (loud), which reduces the contrast between sections and does nothing to improve the occasional monotony. Performance-wise some of the drumming is quite inventive if somewhat repetitive, while the vocals are relentlessly similar and not particularly strong. Again, more variety in both would have given the less engrossing sections a lift.
Shock/Deny introduces a distinctively depressing sound with its blend of primitive doom, black and post metal, and is an improvement over their debut. Unfortunately, the implementation is mixed. Though it starts well, “Shock” becomes tedious as the band grind out simple, dissonant riffs for far too long, and while “Deny” is more interesting, it could also do with some trimming. I hope Deuil don’t become too attached to this idea of two-song albums, because they show promise that could be realized better if they tighten up their songwriting approach. Still, though I may skip past “Shock,” I’ll certainly revisit “Deny” whenever I’m in the mood for unpleasant, bleak dissonance. Which, looking at the weather forecast, is going to be most of this summer. Cheers, England.