Mizmor & Andrew Black – Dialetheia Review

Gaze upon that stark, haunting, monochrome cover photo – shot by Emma Ruth Rundle by the way – and ask yourself, how likely is it that this is going to be like the Lewandowski-adorned Cairn, Mizmor’s last outing? How much difference is it going to make pairing Mizmor mainman A.L.N. with experimental ambient specialist Andrew Black? Will Black soften a few of Mizmor’s crushing edges, provide a few ambient interludes or should we expect a complete change of direction from this collaboration? These were my thoughts approaching Dialetheia. Black was unknown to me, while previous outings from black-doom powerhouse Mizmor met with a mixed reception from yours truly on account of their utterly uncompromising and devastating bleakness: I found Cairn great but so exhausting I rarely return to it. Could the introduction of Black bring, if not levity, then at least a softer form of devastation?

Let me begin by saying there is no levity whatsoever to be found on Dialetheia, as a quick run down of the album’s concept should make painfully clear. Recorded remotely by Mizmor & Andrew Black during the absolute clusterfuck of a year that is 2020, with the pair exchanging audio files over the internet, the album bases itself around the concept of obsolescence, both of traditions and, indeed, our whole way of life. Dialetheia’s two tracks imagine a tour through a museum of collected nostalgia and past times, while lingering on the feeling of being both the observed and the observer. I’ll be honest, given that vocals are barely used and, to the extent they are, only as background instrumentation, I would never have guessed that exact theme. I will say, however, that the moods and emotions evoked by Dialetheia’s gently eddying ambience certainly include senses of forlornness and of longing, of loss and of emptiness.

The continent-sized, distorted riffs that formed the backbone of Cairn are gone almost entirely, as are the howled and rasped vocals of both that album and Yodh before it. There is no percussion. The combination of Mizmor & Andrew Black work their canvas almost exclusively in shades of electronic drone, and gently pulsing ambience. There are, as I mentioned, just hints of vocals on the first track, “Looking At | Looking Through,” and these are delivered by guest Jesse Thom but such is their sparseness and delicacy that, for my first few listens, I was convinced Dialetheia was an instrumental record. The middle section of second track, “Nostalgic Dystopian,” offers up a glacially slow and ominously distorted riff that, on my first listen, I expected to develop into to some kind of crushing misery a la Cairn. But no, instead, it crawls along in unsettlingly haunting tones, as static and gently howling wind-like sirens – or siren-like winds – wend their way about it, ultimately going nowhere.

And that, I am afraid, is ultimately the issue with Dialetheia – there is no pay off. Earlier this year, I reviewed Hierophant Violent, the debut from Forlesen. It’s fair to say I liked it quite a lot. Its first track – and, like Dialetheia, there are only two – takes a good 8 minutes to build to anything much more than an ambient drone and yet the listener’s patience is rewarded. With Mizmor & Andrew Black, however, the album meanders. “Looking At | Looking Through” never even approaches a build and, while “Nostalgic Dystopian” offers a little more variation and edge, it ultimately fails to deliver any kind of satisfaction. Dialetheia’s sound is immersive, in so far as it swirls around you like a particularly persistent and whimsical fog but, just like a fog, the record ultimately lacks substance for me.

I understand – or at least I think I understand – what Mizmor & Andrew Black are trying to do and maybe that lack of substance is supposed to convey the transient and insubstantial nature of our way of life, which has crumbled around us in 2020. If so, then the duo have succeeded in capturing the soundtrack to our monotonous and depressive year – parts of Dialetheia could easily form the sonic backdrop to some very long tracking shots on a dystopian sci-fi epic like Blade Runner 2049 but does it deliver musically? No. It’s a sophisticated, delicate, evocative but ultimately bland and disappointing experience.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Gilead Media
Websites: mizmor.bandcamp.com | andrewrblack.bandcamp.com | mizmor.bigcartel.com | facebook.com/whollydoomedblackmetal
Releases Worldwide: November 20th, 2020

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