Drowstorm – Jubokko Review

Crooked, gnarled, haunting. Jubokko, like the bloodthirsty yōkai of its namesake, is a patient beast. Laying its roots on battlefields, it feeds on the guilt and grief in the aftermath of violence. While not inherently ruthless, its stillness and reverence of the dead sky is relentless, its grisliness overwhelming, and barren expanse daunting. Like the wicked wind, it does not shake the earth but strips it of its fertility. It honors the barren expanse and whispers its secrets, but the murmurs are too haunting to hear. Drowstorm murmurs and flays with this monument of ravaging in mind.

Drowstorm is a project of Sudbury, Ontario’s Joe Caswell, mastermind of all things black metal. Acts like the Viking black Burden of Ymir, the post-black Olim, and second-wave worship Vintertodt populate his repertoire – Drowstorm’s vicious edge of dissonance is a new step into the chasm. On debut Jubokko, expect a worn foundation of second-wave fiats upon which the crooked house of warped melodies and dissonance swaths sway in the wind and waves. Atop minor chord progressions in barbed wire riffs, tortured shrieks, and complex drumming that balances frantic blastbeats and calculated plods, flaying dissonance haunts in both contemplative and unforgiving measure. Jubokko is a triumph of dissonance and menace – a crescendo of chaos.

While undeniably crooked, Jubokko’s greatest achievement is not alienating listeners. Purveyors of dissonance find it all too tempting to almost improvise, movements and passages feeling nearly random in execution and meaningless in context. Drowstorm commits no such folly. A foundation of tasteful black metal riffs is laid throughout Jubokko, with intentionality and purpose infused into every movement. The collapse of each song into its dissonant stillness is nearly inevitable, as the franticness and desperation are always in context to this ugly core. Take opener “Tributary,” which features a 6/8 timing and soaring dissonance that add to the “waltz of madness” feel, which collapses midway into frantic blastbeats and insane trem-picking. Its inverse, however, is “Death Roots,” a frantic number that blasts away relentlessly until it collapses, a morose and solemn quietness spreading like an infection – before returning to its upbeat intensity. “Scavenger of Decay” is also of note, as its punky Darkthrone-esque chord progressions are a memorable and tangible anchor to which Drowstorm accomplishes its aim: dragging the progression deeper and deeper into the rot.

While “Carrion Wind” features a patiently executed descent into madness, complete with equal parts desperation, melancholy, and horror, “Woe to a Lonely Planet” closes out the album with crooked majesty, its dissonance accomplishing new depths of disgust. Contemplative and warped, it nearly accomplishes a Dodecahedron level of otherworldly insanity without compromising its organic flow. As scathing as Plasmodium without the unashamed cosmic ear-abuse, Drowstorm accomplishes through Jubokko something not dissimilar to the obsidian edge of Icelandic black metal like Illkynja or Wormlust, although almost aptly wooden in its warmer guitar tone. Jubokko largely draws few comparisons, although the flow from track to track could be improved as it drives forward. While majestic in its own right, “Woe to a Lonely Planet” can feel disjointed and shambling compared to the streamlined simplicity of “Scavenger of Decay,” while “Death Roots” seems to pale compared to “Tributary” and “Carrion Winds” before it. Finally, its runtime seems to cut it too close at thirty minutes, and I was hoping for more, especially after the closer’s synth ending.

Jubokko tormented me in the multitude of listens I gave it. The songs I initially disliked held the most secrets as the layers unfolded as I dug further into this wound of a record, while the subtle hints of melancholy hit harder than the unforgiving dissonance that spills across Drowstorm’s every facet. Balancing cunning menace and majestic chaos, it falls just short of legendary with a few inconsistencies and a tantalizingly short runtime. Jubokko is a haunted, twisted beast whose branches hold treasures and specters aplenty plumbed from the crimson fields, and it’d be folly to ignore.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: PCM
Label: Pest Productions
Website: drowstorm.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/drowstorm
Releases Worldwide: February 28th, 2023

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