I know that ectoplasm is an actual thing. Wikipedia tells me it’s “the more viscous, clear outer layer of the cytoplasm in amoeboid cells.” But it also has its paranormal applications: that which is left behind by ghouls and ghosts and has been utilized by classic comedy (“He slimed me”). Unfortunately for Poland’s Suffer Yourself, it’s this latter use to which I default. Their funereal death-doom was initially belittled by such comparisons as I sniggered at the juxtaposition of puerile comedy and earnestly brutal metal. Such allusions, however, rapidly dissipated upon beginning the journey that is Ectoplasm as they pound the listener with cavernous growls, massive guitars, and intense atmosphere.
“Rapidly” is perhaps a misleading choice of word as rapidity is not typical of this record. While the tempo certainly does accelerate to slow or mid-paced death metal speeds, the impact is not felt by virtue of this. Indeed, Suffer Yourself are not immediate or immediately entertaining. But it is very effective in its totality, taken as a whole across entire tracks which are not shorter than 7 minutes (“The Core”) and top out at 19 (“Dead Visions”). Alternately morose and aggressive power is exuded throughout, featuring filthy growls, higher shrieks, atmospheric ambiance, slamming chord progressions and crushing bass dominance. None of the music ventures past simplicity but it’s a good example of twinning head-nodding riffs with more melodic programmed layers to create a powerful tone.
What you’ll take from Ectoplasm very much depends on how you listen to it. It isn’t massively engaging from moment-to-moment even if it has a potency of overall mood. The finer the detail to which you pay attention, the less interesting the music is; the pace plods and highlights are few. My note-taking listen was definitely my least enjoyable. But allow it to fill in the background gaps and you’ll be struck by its power, by its emotion. Not all music is designed to grip its listener for every second and while this does limit the award as my favorites are those which I love for every second, it’s significantly stronger as music with which to walk or work.
The tracks’ structure are also lacking. They creak forwards in a linear fashion but omit any payoff or logic. Composed of passages which are only vaguely musically linked, I feel that much of the album could have been rearranged without a problem which demonstrates deficient song-writing. It is ironically “Dead Visions” excepting this as it’s reasonably paced and interspersed with stand-out riffs and melodies to rejuvenate its 19-minute duration. The conclusion is appropriately final and closure resonates. Nonetheless, another track hides behind this beast, both boring the listener with another 7 minutes of fluctuating yet ineffective ambiance and ensuring an excessive 62-minute length. To hideously misappropriate another classic quote, “Let’s say this Twinkie represents the normal amount of doom metal in the new underground album. According to Ectoplasm‘s sample, it would be a Twinkie 35 feet long and weighing approximately 600 pounds.”
Suffer Yourself has undoubtedly crafted an impressive slab of doom, sure to appeal to those who enjoy dark rooms and introspection. But it comes with the caveat that it’s only remarkable in the background; it’s quite the opposite as something stuck on to quickly energize yourself. And that isn’t quite good enough in a year replete with great doom.