I really don’t like to throw around the word “pretentious” in my reviews.1 Underground music, particularly of the avant-garde persuasion, is a field where I believe that perceived false pretenses are merely the result of a disconnect between the artist and consumer. After all, properly recording an album is an expensive undertaking; with little chance for financial gain, why would a given band have any reason not to wear its heart on its sleeve? While I’ve covered many albums where I’ve felt this sense of disconnect, Melting the Ice in the Hearts of Men is not one of them. I feel like I totally understand what this record is trying to do, yet the urge to use that old forbidden word is creeping in again. This is because, for a band marketing itself as doom metal, Our Survival Depends on Us‘ execution comes across a betrayal of what should be the genre’s primary function.
See, Melting the Ice in the Hearts of Men does not care whether it is effective as a doom metal offering. Its main focus is on atmosphere; not of the colossal, crushing sort, mind you, but of the slow-burning, otherworldly variety. Indeed, Our Survival Depends on Us fares best when it sets aside any pretense of doom and focuses solely on building a spacey vibe, which comes in a variety of flavors. “Galahad” offers throwback psychedelic riffs, while “Gold and Silver” builds undercurrents of unease through protracted, prog-ish drum grooves and ghostly lead guitar harmonies. Passages like these are all too brief within the scope of the record’s four sprawling, ten minute-plus compositions, yet reveal a band with real potential when properly focused. At the very least, the best bits provide moments of intrigue amidst what is otherwise an absolute Valium trip.
I may not be the world’s most rabid consumer of doom metal, but when one is only able to recall a single riff2 after several spins of a doom record, it’s a bad sign from any perspective. When Our Survival Depends On Us drops into the lowest depths of the fretboard, any hint of imagination teased by its introspective moments instantly evaporates. The vaguely blackened power chords feel completely obligatory, arriving only to form the groundwork whenever the band decides they’ve had enough with playing at low volume. In fact, the band displays blatant disinterest in writing riffs at all, opting instead to lazily navigate endless, open-palm chord progressions with zero sense of instrumental flair. It’s hard to shake the feeling that they would prefer to not play metal music at all.
The lack of a genuine sense of weight and dread during doom metal passages may have been forgivable if Melting the Ice in the Hearts of Men were consistently intriguing during its softer sections, which occupy roughly 50% of the disc. For all its thematic lyricism and folk instrumentation, however, the album can’t manage to maintain my interest, often falling into the same pitfalls of repetition and uninspired melody that plague the doom portions. The tracks are sloppily constructed, to boot; there is no real sense of progression to the compositions aside from random aesthetic shifts, rendering each song’s dramatic conclusion hilariously sudden and entirely unearned. The record doesn’t have an engaging vocalist to carry it either, as the clean performances,3 though delivered with booming earnestness, come across as overwrought and silly. That being said, I wery much enjoy the countless mispronunciations of “very” into “wery” that occur throughout “Song of the Lower Classes.”
These many missteps, combined with what might just be the flattest mix I’ve ever encountered in doom, result in a record where Our Survival Depends on Us‘ intent feels mistranslated at every possible turn. Melting the Ice in the Hearts of Men is certainly ambitious—the variety of sounds attempted, including a final track largely defined by ritualistic chanting and sporadic ethnic instrumentation, makes this abundantly clear—but its ambitions pile up into a massive snooze fest that is at once too little and too much. There might just be some potential hidden away here, but to unearth it, the band members are going to have to work their asses off to tighten up their songwriting and craft some actual goddamn riffs. As a doom act in an overcrowded field, their survival depends on it.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Ván Records
Websites: oursurvivaldependsonus.bandcamp.com | osdou.com |
Releases Worldwide: February 8th, 2018
- There has, admittedly, been at least one instance where I’ve broken this self-imposed rule, but I’ve come to regret this isolated lapse in composure. ↩
- It kicks in at around the 1:15 mark of “Gold and Silver,” if you were curious. ↩
- The album credits cite three vocalists, so I’m not sure who here is responsible. ↩