The Medea Project – Sisyphus Review

You know, I’d never really considered it before, but it’s funny gothic and doom metal are not more frequently bedfellows. After all, the two genres have a lot in common: morose atmosphere, flair for the dramatic, favored color black (alright, that last one may go for everything more extreme than power metal). And sure, there’s some big names that have wed the styles at some point in their careers, like My Dying Bride or Tiamat. But it never became a household mixture the way death thrash or prog power did. Well, The Medea Project1 want to make their mark with just such a sound. Will debut release Sisyphus take the scene by storm and put the wind in the sails of gothic doom?

Well, that seems unlikely, but that doesn’t make it a bad album at all. The best aspect is the atmosphere, which manages to take the theatrical gothic darkness and slathers it with a fresh layer of grime. Single “To Know Us Is To Fear Us” with its tribalistic drums, reverberating bass2 and oppressive roar is particularly apt at this, though the hysterical vocoder tries a little too hard. At its best, the album reminds of a doomier Usurpress with an appropriately sludgy slant, not in the least owing to a similarly wide range of variations on the style. The aforementioned single is preceded by “Babylon,” where the gothic vibe is much stronger and the growls entirely absent. Elsewhere, “G.E.O.F.F.” has an almost Southern twang, half the main riff reminiscent of Blue Öyster Cult’s “Godzilla,” with closer “The Desert Song” doubling that vibe with hazy plucks and rattlesnake shakes.

Not everything on the album is written in a particularly inspired fashion, however. “Gloam” and “Reaver” present a gloomy mid-album dip whose riffs have no staying power whatsoever, the former for being too rote, the latter awkwardly stumbling over its own experimentation with tempo-changes and poorly placed half-notes. “The Desert Song” may have good atmosphere, but not enough happens to justify its length and its over-repetition and fuzziness makes for a rather lethargic way to end the album. “G.E.O.F.F” and “FEAR” are slightly better, but it can’t hide the fact that the album is rather frontloaded, with the cutoff after the lengthy and majestic “The Ghosts of St. Augustine.”

It’s that track that really pulls me solidly over the edge to give Sisyphus a good score though. “St. Augustine” is like a death-doom cousin to Fvneral Fvkk, somehow making repetition work for it and coupling it with dark religious overtones to create something ominous and addictive. Additionally, the production is really rather solid. The guitar tones are nice and chunky, the bass gets lots of wiggle room for its cavernous twang and the drums are mixed appropriately high for that extra pop. The mastering is a little rough around the edge, but I’ll take rough with personality over polished and sterile any day.

There’s been plenty to complain about these past 4 paragraphs. Rote riffs that don’t stick, stumbling on experimentation, putting atmosphere over engagement. Yet on the whole I find myself enjoying Sisyphus much more than I dislike it. There’s a ton of heart in these 42 minutes, approaching a core sound from as many angles as there are tracks, and sounding inspired with everything they try out. Sure, trying things out mean they stumble sometimes, but their peaks are higher and more frequent than their falls. Overall, Sisyphus is a flawed debut for The Medea Project, but there’s enough ideas and identity here to make me eager to hear what they have to offer next.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7| Format Reviewed: 320kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: March 20th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Not named after the dreadful movie character
  2. Which has sadly gone uncredited in our promo package
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