Pulling off a long song — be it a ten-minute black metal piece or an hour-plus funeral doom opus — takes very deliberate pacing. Great drone and doom bands know this and know how to pull the listener rather than push them. If the song moves too fast, it can seem to lose structure, but if it moves too slowly, it can stagnate and sour the listener to its next idea. One has to have the pacing and space to keep themselves involved. Sunn O))) will keep you guessing at when they’ll place the next chord, and they use the naturally nuanced texture of high-amplification to fill the space between. Bell Witch can stretch a two-note riff out for the length of a grindcore album just by pinching each note out of the bass with gravitas.
Yhdarl have spent a decade writing monstrous songs; the formerly one-man, currently one-man-one-woman, depressive black/drone/doom project claims dozens of EPs, demos, and LPs since 2007, and this year’s Loss LP seems to be a big investment for them. Such a large investment, in fact, that frontman and multi-instrumentalist Déhà (of Clouds and about seventy other bands) released a two-part album last year to help cover the cost of Loss‘s physical release. An album which, I don’t mind telling you, clocks in at five hours long. Yhdarl make big, big music.
Loss‘s most immediate strength reveals itself within the album’s first seconds. “Ignite-Ashes” opens with a string scrape and a shriek so raw and impassioned that the first riff nearly drowns beneath it. Between Déhà, his blackened buddy Larvalis and a bevy of guest spots, this album covers nearly every corner of the black metal vocal range and the first few moments of “Ignite – Ashes” provide a tantalizing taste of even broader vocal variety to come.
That variety largely carries the album through its roughest spots, where the three enormous songs occasionally drag. “Ignite – Ashes” subsists on blast beats and simple trem-picked patterns for ten minutes before Yhdarl deign to pull back and add quiet contrast, and after eight minutes of great vocals and lackluster guitar work, I was ready to write off this album as a casualty of excess. Yet, better late than never, the song recovers in its last third. Much to my surprise, the twenty minute “Despise – Pity” fares quite well, and shifts through a plethora of compelling passages, balancing repetition and novelty remarkably well. The cleanly sung lines that enter around eleven minutes in come as a pleasant surprise, recalling the fragility of Oathbreaker just before huge power chords fracture the atmosphere.
Like any songs of this length, it’s possible to pick apart the composition and suggest trimming repetitions or excising a weaker idea to move the song along faster, but Yhdarl‘s talent at arranging largely obviates the need for big changes. I’ll check my watch if I’m not in the mood for depressive blackened doom, but when the music fits my mood, Loss proves itself more than worthy of my attention. It takes a lot of patience to uncover the album’s best moments, but when caught in its current, I find myself pulled along just as I should be.
I don’t love Loss, but it has proven far better than I could have expected; an expansive and depressive journey that I expect to still enjoy when I’m in the mood, and at under fifty minutes long, it’s a much smaller commitment than Cloak of Ash, Sisterre, and Mirror Reaper, a few of my other go-to albums for long and encapsulating soundscapes. For those often moved by depressive black metal and long-form doom, Yhdarl‘s efforts here will be welcome.