Dirge – Ah Puch Review

So the good news is that today we’ll be taking a field trip, we’ll be heading into the jungle so dress accordingly; the betterer news is that this is a time travel episode! Drawing lyrical inspiration from history and mythology alike, India’s Dirge are taking us to Central America, circa Hernán Cortés’ storied rape of romp through the Yucatán Peninsula. This box-approved bidness is a rather violent affair in and of itself, so hurry up and get your seatbelts fastened. Or don’t, yo. Your safety is none of my concern, I’m just here to tell you about a wicked good doom album.

To that end: I’m just here to tell you about a wicked good doom album, there will be no history lesson today. Not having access to the lyrics at the time of writing, all I know is what I heard, and what I heard was 6 tracks worth of some of the most interesting and versatile doom metal that I’ve encountered all year. To that end, if we’re being all technical about it, Ah Puch would likely be most fairly categorized as progressive doom. The doomy bits are Candlemassive and a tad unholier than Thou, yet the vocals are almost hardcore shouts, and the songwriting of the album is such that each track explores tonal possibilities beyond the black mire of stock doom; “Montezuma’s Revenge” is death doom deliciousness, for example, while “La Malinche” features hints of Neurosis and “The Dilemma” is straight up acoustic. For being yet another doom album, Ah Puch‘s greatest strength is its refusal to be just another doom album; versatility is the name of the game, and if this debut is any indication to go by, Dirge have some big(ger(er)) wins ahead of them.

Now, to this that end, the versatility of Ah Puch makes discerning any semblance of a signature sound somewhat of a strenuous assignment. The album simultaneously increases its death and prog levels with each successive track, to the point that the heady aggression of “Corpse of Cortez” is nearly unrecognizable from the more straightforward sludge-doom of opener “Invoking the Demigod.” This is hardly to the detriment of the album, yet it doesn’t make things any easier for this velvety heap ov opinions to succinctly summarize, and said opinion pile is unsure how to feel about it. It all flows together well enough, there’s just no real sense of identity here and for some reason this irritates me. That said, I have no actual complaints about Ah Puch otherwise, the whole thing’s a blast no matter what sound Dirge are dabbling in and you’ll check it out if you know what’s good for you.

So now that it’s come to threats and prog, we can abandon the pretense of civility and get right down to the brutal dirt of honesty. Ah Puch suffers from one crucial flaw, and the trvth ov the matter is: I have no idea what it is. For all the well-executed and enjoyable exploration experienced along the way, there’s a certain indescribable sense of something that’s just not quite there. If anything, I’d guess that the greatest failure of Ah Puch is that it dropped the same year as Iris, Támsins Likam, and Sentiment, not to mention being pawned off to an angry metal ‘reviewer’ of equal or greater punctuality impairment. Put simply, Ah Puch arrived to the Great 2018 Doom Soiree a bit too late and without a flashy enough outfit to be more than a wallflower. These guys have some great ideas and are definitely a blast to jam with, but to a certain extent they’re an Ashton Kutcher in a sea of Charlie Sheens: this is a more than capable doom release, but it’s not gonna be the one you’re thinking of come the rapidly approaching list season.

At the end of the day, Ah Puch is an album that you shouldn’t miss but probably will, one which should stand out yet probably won’t. There’s so much in these 6 tracks that works well and threatens to stand out, it’s a quality collection of killer, creative compositions, but there was simply just too much other, zazzier, doom dished out this year for Ah Puch to rise above too many heads in the sea of tonal despair. A ridiculously subjective damnation, to be sure, but it was my call and I made it. This one’s worth your time, just don’t say I didn’t warn you when it’s March and you realize that you haven’t listened to this at all thanks to Iris and Sentiment still having you in their clutches.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label:  Self-Release
Websites: dirgeindia.bandcamp.com | Facebook.com/DIRGE/India
Releases Worldwide:  October 19th, 2018

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