Even before hearing a single note from Portland, Oregon’s one-man blackened doom psalmist Mizmor (מזמור), the striking cover art of Yodh—a reproduction of an artwork by Polish artist Zdzisław Beksiński—tells us everything we need to know. The two faces in a desolate dystopian landscape, robbed of their distinguishing features and reduced to mute, expressionless monoliths, speak to our subconscious selves. They activate primal parts of our psyches and communicate a wordless, but deep sense of unease. A vision of the future, a projection of one’s soul, or both. Mizmor’s sophomore release is just like that, an unnervingly heavy, incomprehensible thing, a bastard born out of black metal and drone and raised in the filth of funeral doom. A mutant artistic articulation that shouldn’t exist, and yet that we’re faced with.
Rising from this place of desolation, something deliriously beautiful surfaces in the way that A.L.N., Mizmor’s sole member, meshes disparate genres together, crossing the lethargic tread of doom with the schizophrenic onslaught of black metal. For the duration of the record, then, these elements coexist rather than clash, cocooning a crushingly fast rumble within a slow, static framework that pushes songs into a motionless glide. An almost hypnotic characteristic of the music becomes clear as soon as the opener “i. Woe Regains My Substance” plods down to a halt, the remains of A.L.N.’s tortured vocals echoing in the distance, only to ramp back up, and finally dissolve into a rumbling, abstract drone.
Still, Yodh doesn’t adhere to a clear formula, rather all the tracks follow their own paths—varying tempos, contrasting acoustic and distortion-saturated passages—and reflect in flesh whichever concept the artist is trying to convey through them. In recent interviews, A.L.N. provides some insight into his process and views. He acknowledges Yodh as both an expression of his perception of the fascinating futility of mankind’s struggles and its continued lust for life, and a conduit for his own battles with depression.
Consistent in quality for the whole 60+ minutes of material, Yodh’s high points come during the Earth-esque, creeping, and atmospheric “iii. The Serpent Eats its Tail,” that surprisingly morphs into an ominous, oppressive doom-drone behemoth, and the extremely massive “iv. Inertia, an Ill Compeller” that seems pushed forward by an imperceptibly developing, deconstructed, and constantly lingering melody. This is seldom meandering music that is thrust upon the listener in all its heaviness and in which the listener takes no formative part. We are, instead, condemned to lose control and become enveloped in A.L.N.’s infernal microcosm.
If Erich Fromm is to be believed, “one cannot be deeply responsive to the world without being saddened very often.” In that sense, Yodh reveals A.L.N. as an incredibly perceptive and attuned musician capable of channeling this endless sadness into a great work of art. A work that deserves the title of the most emotionally and sonically crushing album of the year.
Tracks to Check Out: “i. Woe Regains My Substance” and “iii. The Serpent Eats its Tail”