Discounted Dirges: Disemballerina
Oregon string ensemble trio Disemballerina have just dropped their new album Poison Gown. To celebrate this, their fourth release since starting out in 2010, they have taken 20% off the price of their entire discography. This is good news for any of you with a penchant for doomy neo-classical dirges to offer some respite from your usual diet of inorganic metals.
Ever since stumbling across their self-titled debut on one of my casual solitary ambles through the depths of bandcamp, I’ve been coming back to this band. Hearing metal-like sensibilities in other genres has always appealed to me. Similar to the way I had been enthralled by the gypsy-thrash of Blue Mountains vagabonds The Crooked Fiddle Band, I was compelled to further explore the funereal lamentation of Portland’s Disemballerina.
The first track “Saturn Return” quietly ushers you into the candle-lit hall, beckoning you to take a seat on the vacant dry hay-bale just in time to be lured into the enchanting interplay between the strings. The solemn melody of the acoustic guitar is bestowed with the mournful draws of the cello and viola. By the time the second track (‘Thieves’ Oil’) kicks up a gear, it’s difficult to not be swept away in thoughts of an oncoming medieval battle scene.
The second release was a single track, 2-piece affair titled Sundowning, consisting of just an acoustic guitar and viola. It is a piece which smoulders like a burnt escarpment of woodland, remorseful and charred black. By the time the 8 minutes have elapsed, the ashes have been washed into the cracks in the earth left by the fire, where they will be sequestered indefinitely.
2014 brought the release of Undertaker, which saw the band work as a quartet, utilising a variety of extra instrumentation such as mandolas (the viola of the mandolin-class), harp, electric guitar, bandola, bajo quinto and an e-bow guitar. The results are brilliant. The record traverses through a range of worldly influences, without ever feeling contrived. At times I hear melancholic winds echoing across gently undulating Celtic pastures. Vacant of life. The rolling fogs ceaselessly engulfing the distant landscape. At other times, the additional instruments lend a Spanish and/or South American sound to the overall picture. The plucked natural harmonics chiming and ringing around each other in beautiful formation. The album art was created by viola/harpist Myles Donovon by placing found bird carcasses directly against the glass of photo-copiers (read more here).
This brings us to Disemballerina’s most recent release, Poison Gown. The band is reverting back to a three-piece and releasing 6 more beautiful tracks this November. The third track “That is the Head of the One Who Toyed with My Honor” is a chilling 3 minutes that includes the use of a machete; a great deal of metal bands would struggle to replicate the ominous feeling that Disemballerina achieve here. Henceforth, darkness haunts the remainder of the album. The band is currently looking for a label. This is an atrocity and must be resolved. This is some of the most captivating music I’ve heard in a long time. Organic, rich and engrossing.