Far removed from passersby, you enter this house, years abandoned and decrepit. The floor creaks something fierce, but you don’t flinch, the oddly small structure’s allure stronger than your survival instincts. A light whisper ensconces you, crystalline yet indecipherable. Following the voice down a little hallway to the door at the end, you can’t help but register a slight twinge of something sinister. What happened here? Why does it feel so alive and yet so clearly decomposed? Your hand wraps around the tarnished brass knob, oddly diminutive just like the rest of the house. As it opens, a sudden silence dominates. Dead silence. Behind the door, now hanging ajar, lies impenetrable blackness. As if making a last ditch effort to move any part of your body away from this….thing, darker than the darkest black, every synapse fires white lightning through your limbs, but it’s too late. You’re disappeared. The door seals itself without a sound. A few moments pass, and from the deadened environs rises that ethereal whisper once again. This is the house of the Frayle.
Ages passed since Cleveland’s Frayle released their debut goth/doom tome-let The White Witch. Evocative of the deep yet as tempting as the light, that little EP was enough to get me all in a tizzy for this new doomed demon. In the year of our Jørn 2020, I finally get the chance to sample the first full batch of this witch’s brew. The formula is the perfect representation of the K.I.S.S. method. Keep It Simple, Stupid. Guitarists Sean Bilovecky’s and Elliot Rosen’s riffs are thick and meaty, with Pat Ginley’s big, burly beats pounding behind them. Eric Mzik’s warm fuzzies on the low end provide plenty of spine-tingling rumbles, with siren Gwyn Strang regally presiding above it all. That’s it. No fancy gimmicks, no extraneous instrumentation. Just gargantuan hooks, doomy vibes, and deceiving lightness for something that stomps as heavily as 1692 does.
Introductory couplet “Introduction (Arise)” and “1692” pick up right where The White Witch left off, breathlessly summoning vile incantations upon an ensnared audience before obliterating civilization with a phat wall of fuzz. It might not seem like a strong riff until the five minutes of the title track fly away and suddenly you feel abandoned. Fret not, for album highlight “Gods of No Faith” and early SotY contender “Darker than Black” are right around the corner. All hooks and no filler, these two songs dig into your brain and refuse to let go. Later on comes a quasi-psychedelic desert-goth duo in “Burn” and “Godless,” which are strong enough apart but feel beautifully joined in the context of the whole. Enhancing the memorability of these and most of the other songs is the production. If it weren’t for the sole interlude “Monsters,” which clocks in at a respectable DR10, 1692 would return a seemingly abysmal DR4. Yet the album sounds full and lush, albeit somewhat loud, with all constituent frequencies working in unison to support and elevate each other in spite of the cramped sonic space. To quote a certain Canadian cowboy, “[…]whomever (Sean Bilovecky, mostly) worked on this album did a good job.”
As with most debuts, 1692 leaves some room for improvement. Infinitely replayable though it is, there remain pacing issues across the board in that the album adheres to homogeneous tempos. Granted, doom records are often slower than most and it isn’t like Frayle lack dynamism in their songwriting, but it might be nice to include a short burst of haste or a dip into a dirge. On a related note, “Monsters” is a cutting room reject if ever I heard one because is so disrupts the consistency of the record—not just in timing but also in volume—as to be alarming. Lastly, closer “Stab,” while memorable insofar as the final minute contains irresistible vocal phrasing, is otherwise overlong, unremarkable and repetitive.
A demolishing weapon, wielded without mercy, at the command of a delicate flower. This is the essence of Frayle. So easily we mere mortals fall under their spell, so seductive a spell they cast. They who are strong of will may find purchase upon the last ridge of reality, grasped in the singular breaths between these hypnotic invocations. But be wary, intrepid survivor. Frayle have yet to recite the next chapter in their cursed volume ov imprisoned souls.