Process of Guilt // Faemin
Rating: 3.0/5.0 — Streetcleaner without that industrial smell
Label: Bleak/Division Records
Websites: processofguilt.com | myspace.com
Release Date: EU: 2012.06.11 US: 06.12.2012
Here’s a band that’s garnering a fair amount of underground buzz of late. Portugal’s Process of Guilt are a post-doom/heavy-drone band with a few albums under their belt, and Faemin is being proclaimed as their finest hour yet. I haven’t heard the previous two albums, so I can’t opine, but I can say Faemin is a whole lot of slow to mid-tempo, sledgehammer drone without much in the way of variation or diversity. Taking cues from Streetcleaner-era Godflesh and the likes of Ahab and Mastodon, Process of Guilt hammer away with a type of thick, riff-heavy doom/drone that isn’t quite industrial but surely verges on it. It’s a very simple, sparse sound, dominated by the bone-crushing guitar, hoarse/quasi-death vox and pounding bass. On first listen, it left me quite underwhelmed. On further listens, I was pretty much whelmed. It isn’t catchy or even that interesting, but it seems to keep growing on me insidiously the more I spin it, so that must count for something.
Let me reiterate. This is not an album that screams diversity from the rooftops. Opener “Empire” pretty much shows you the whole (small) bag of tricks Process of Guilt brings to the party. That means fairly long songs with one tempo (usually mid) and a ton of heaviness. None of the songs are catchy in the traditional sense and they don’t have choruses as far as I can tell. The appeal depends entirely on how much you like being buried under thunderous, rattling riffs and semi death vocals which get looped over and over for six to ten minutes. However, there is something to their sound that holds your interest (at least after a few sample spins), I just can’t quite understand it or explain it.
While not much different in style or approach, “Blindfold” brings in a slightly different riffing dynamic that sounds like vintage Kyuss on all sorts of performance enhancing drugs. It also brings more of the post-rock minimalism and emptiness to the sound, and while very void-like, it works pretty well (especially the creepy riffing at 4:40). The Godflesh influences really come to the fore on “Harvest” and there’s some real power to the music, but it ultimately gets bogged down in too much samey drone. I have the same problem with “Cleanse,” which sounds like a more simplistic, post-rockin Ahab. It’s got some decent ideas but runs too long with too little variation. The highpoint comes with the title track, which is mighty long but has a lot of urgency and anger to it. It delivers some truly ponderous, pounding riffage that makes you empathize with how a framing nail must feel. This helps it resonate where some of the other material doesn’t. It also has the best riffing on the album, especially around 4:33 and 6:46.
Hugo Santos has a rough, leathery bellow that verges on death metal and he’s bound to remind many of Justin Broadrick (Godflesh). He very rarely changes his delivery and he can get a bit tedious at times, but he fits the relentless grind. His guitar-work, along with Hugo David is where Process stands or falls. While I wouldn’t say any of the riffing here is memorable or hooky, they make some of the riffs stick through sheer repetition. Their entire ethos is geared more towards nonstop hammering than flashy leads, so in that regard, Faemin is a triumph of sorts.
If you like mountains of mid-tempo grinding riffs (just a bit too fast to qualify as doom) and prefer being pummeled to hearing catchy music, Faemin is your new best friend. Part of me wishes I could recommend this more forcefully, but it’s an odd duck of an album. I like it but I’m not sure its the type album I’ll be revisiting much after a week or two of playing. Sample carefully before diving it. It’s a fine line between entrancing and boring. Process of Guilt walks that dangerous middle ground.