Well, this is an interesting completion of the circle. Djinn and Miskatonic’s Forever in the Realm was a number of firsts for me: first impulse-purchase of an album on band name alone1, first real exposure to doom metal, first exposure to the burgeoning Indian metal scene, and the subject of a writing sample to This Very Mighty Website! That debut, stuffed to the gills with Sleep and Sabbath-esque riffage, was also unfortunately possessed of spotty songwriting and editing issues. Their sophomore album, Even Gods Must Die, promises a platter of six potent songs, this time with the Sleep influences dialed back to bring more Electric Wizard and Reverend Bizarre into the mix. But there’s a gulf between concept and execution – is this a slab of doom worth your time and interest?
If your taste in doom riffs runs to a mix of groovy and crushing, then yes! Right off the bat, “I, Zombie” rumbles forth with glacial but groovy bass riffage from Jayaprakash Satanmurthy, joined shortly by Sriram Kvlteswaran and newbie Mushaf Nazeer on guitar, offering up an excellent impersonation of Electric Wizard at their most somber. For its final third, the song shifts gears smoothly into slinky Sabbathian jazziness. The rest of the album follows much this same template; while very little about the band’s sound is original or unique, the song and riff-writing is consistently well-executed and variable, even kicking the tempo up from funereal from time to time, like on the especially Sabbath like “Frost and Steel.” “Doombringer” boasts a hauntingly earworm-y chorus courtesy of vocalist Gautham Khandige. Vocalists can easily be the most subjective element of a band for me, but Khandige’s vocals though not the best, are consistently effective as he flips from a smooth baritone chant to hungry mid-range rasps. A hypothetical most-improved award would certainly go here. The compelling nature of “Doombringer” is further augmented by the single catchiest set of riffs on the album; which form the basis for the wonderful call-and-response between the guitars and the guest organ. Said organ’s tone is one found by throwing the sounds from “In a Gadda da Vida” and Electric Wizard’s “Funeralopolis” in a blender. Penultimate track “Harvest of Kings” is full of lovely Electric Wizard riffing in general and features the second-catchiest chorus after “Doombringer.”
Not everything is perfect, of course. The songwriting, while much improved from the debut, does not quite support the 15 minute runtime of “I, Zombie,” while the album as a whole is a song too long at 64 minutes. Axing the weakest track, “Hangman’s Hope,” would easily ameliorate this, and would additionally leave the album bookended nicely by the bass intro and outro, respectively, of “I, Zombie” and “Harvest of Kings.” The latter is perhaps a tad long as well, with a bass non-solo about 5 minutes in that seems wasted and backing chants from Kvltswaran that are a bit weak. Trimming the former and strengthening the latter, and letting the song close the album, would result in a much tighter ending and overall package for the record. An alternate solution would be to trim everything a little bit and pull “Hope” up into the middle of the album to provide more variance the texture.
The production, despite the mediocre DR score, is solid all-around. The bass-centric songwriting is perfectly accented by dragging the bass directly to the top of the mix, with a warm, smooth tone; combined, this lets Satanmurthy’s basswork envelop the listener in a groove cocoon. Conversely, the slight rough edge of the twin guitar and harsh vocals keep things from getting sleepy. The only problem to note is that Siddharth Manorahan’s drums get a little lost in the mix, as they follow the other rhythm instrumentation. The master, per usual, is kind of loud (and thereby contributing to that drum problem), but not overwhelmingly so.
Despite some small problems, this is definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of traditional doom, or if you like funeral doom and want something with a bit less edge. It’s an improvement by leaps and bounds over their debut, so I’m definitely curious what the future holds for these lads from Bengaluru.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Transcending Obscurity India
Website: djinnandmiskatonic.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/djinnandmiskatonic
Releases Worldwide: January 10th, 2018