Mizmor – Wit’s End Review

My last encounter with Portland, Oregon’s Mizmor (מזמור) was not what I expected. I knew Mizmor from the bleak, blackened doom of Yodh and the crushing fusion of black metal, doom, sludge and drone on Cairn. On Dialetheia, A.L.N.’s project with Andrew Black, all metal was abandoned, however, in favor of ambient drone to explore the concept of obsolescence, both of traditions and, indeed, our whole way of life, on an imagined tour through a museum of collected nostalgia and past times. I struggled a bit with Dialetheia, missing the massive weight and oppressiveness of Mizmor’s earlier work, and also the catharsis that came with that. Which incarnation of Mizmor are we presented with on Wit’s End?

Wit’s End is clearly a record born of frustration. Where Yodh reflected on faith and meaning, and Cairn turned inward in a sort of cleansing introspection, Wit’s End looks outward in exhausted, frustrated rage. It comprises only two songs and opens with the title track, which creeps into being with a strummed, echoing acoustic chord before a spoken-word piece unfolds: “Ingrates of truth,” it begins, “you depend on its utility, you revel in its luxury, and yet you spit in its face and deny it, like I do God.” Later, our drained narrator explains “I’m so tired, so very tired … I worked so hard and for so long to come to a place where facts, science and evidence matter, and inform chiefly, only to be met with a reality of a time and people that oppose and damage that entire idea. I have not words, just feelings, heavy as the earth hanging round my neck …”

Reflecting on the depressing shift toward facts being subjective, “Wit’s End” channels Mizmor’s resonant, blackened doom, rumbling along at glacial pace, as A.L.N. roars his bitter resentment to the sky. The drums shudder, pounding out a slow, mesmerizing rhythm, while huge distorted guitars create an all-consuming wall of fatigued fury. Every fiber of the title track’s 15-minute run shrieks out its impotent, hopeless anger, leaving it to the second composition on Wit’s End, “Pareidolia”1 to offer something altogether different. As such, the second half of the record is swirling sea of synth ambience, which gradually grows and evolves from a hauntingly calm soundscape to an increasingly disordered cacophony of discordant voices, almost seeming to shout for attention. In a deceptively simple way, Mizmor evokes the chaotically unsettling world of competing, distorted half-truths we now live in.

Wit’s End is a stripped-back affair. Even on the title track, as A.L.N.’s harsh vocals rip forth and the huge guitars envelop the listener, it has a simple minimalism to it that is both effective and engaging. The eerie discordance of “Pareidolia” is as unsettling as it is bleak, its impact only heightened by what went before. One might think that the ambient piece should appear before the notionally heavier “Wit’s End” but it is, in many respects, more nuanced and discomfiting. That said, it also feels ever so slightly unfinished. Perhaps that is intentional because Mizmor has more to bring us on its next outing. But perhaps not. Either way, “Pareidolia” just fades out in a faintly unsatisfying way. The sound on show, however, is deeply satisfying. The distorted, feedback-laden guitars feel epic and A.L.N.’s harsh roars are full-throated and spitting bile, while the ambient second half of the record is smooth, textured and rich.

Wit’s End is, like most of Mizmor’s work, an uncomfortable listen. It is designed both as an outlet for A.L.N.’s undisguised disgust with the current state of the world and to make the listener reflect. It is successful in both endeavours and left me in no doubt as to Mizmor’s view of humanity. There are times when subtlety is called for and times when it is not. Wit’s End combines both in its two halves and is more effective, to my ears at least, than Dialetheia.

Note: at the time of writing, the only thing to embed here was the 30-second ‘teaser’ from the label, Gilead Media, below. Wit’s End is available for pre-order on Bandcamp here but there is currently nothing there to stream.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Gilead Media
Websites: mizmor.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/whollydoomedblackmetal
Releases Worldwide: January 14th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. Pareidolia is when someone sees something significant in a seemingly random or vague patterns. Perhaps you know someone who swears that the smear of Tabasco left on his plate is the spitting image of the Virgin Mary?
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