Double Dose of Darkness: Wretched Fate & Zohamah
Dark is as dark releases. Or something.
Weltschmerz made it onto my year-end list, I’ve heard nothing but good about that 1914 album, and it looks like Cleveland-based Redefining Darkness Records are continuing strong into 2019, at least if these two death metal(-ish) records are any indication.
Buzzsaws. Bulldozers. Bloodbath. These are a few of
my favourite things the things that come to mind when listening to Wretched Fate. As Swedeath goes, these folks are not quite reinventing any wheels, but having studied the masters well, they manage to offer a smorgasbord of deftly executed genre tropes with enough of a note of their own to make this more than worthwhile. While straightforward numbers like the eponymous opener “Wretched Fate” or the Vomitory-esque “Heading for Beheading” waste no time in flattening the listener, things become a bit more refined soon enough. “Altars of Misery” is the first track to introduce some synthwork, and it’s in this aspect that the band’s individuality shines through the most. The chorals in “Fear Expulsion”, the samples in “Taker of Souls”, and the dark atmosphere they successfully build in more expansive numbers like “Epitaph” or the title track are testament of Mats Andersson’s soft spot for horror movies, which provides a backbone to the album that is subtle enough not to come off gimmicky or alienate purists, but strong enough to make the band stand out and provide freshness to what might otherwise have become a rather stale, if still adept, offering. As it is, this individual note makes the whole thing much more compelling, and currently has me coming back frequently.
Death doom is usually a pretty hard sell for me, but every now and then, an album comes along that even I can enjoy. So what do Israel’s Zohamah do right? For one thing, they don’t strictly play death doom, which is a good start. There’s a palpable dose of black metal in here, most notably in the vocals, which squeeze out the Hebrew lyrics like confessions extracted under torture. Imagine Mutilation Rites playing doom metal and you’re most of the way there. This, along with a few bursts of blasting (“The Darkness Whispers In My Ear”, “Zohamah”) and some moments in “Emptiness” that remind me of Thantifaxath, already comprises all the black metal elements that are readily apparent, but it’s enough to spice things up sufficiently. On the other end of the spectrum, “Black Cloud” is the most straightforward death metal track, mostly stomping along at a lumbering pace and boasting some surprisingly groovy riffs. It’s the shortest song on here, which leads me to another aspect in which the album scores points with me: it’s only half an hour long. That may sound like a back-handed compliment, but in a genre that seems fraught with overlong compositions that go nowhere, I find this very refreshing. It’s the death doom equivalent of a quick fix, with plenty of killer and very little filler.