Get Your Bummer On With Mizmor’s Cairn
Are you having the time of your life? Well, you’re about to, if by “the time of your life” you mean hellish misery and agony that refuse to leave your desiccated body, still somehow firm in its refusal to die, as if it has decided to turn on you, finally repaying you for the years of abuse you’ve put it through.
Mizmor’s sophomore Yodh was easily one of the biggest, heaviest, most painful and exhausting releases of 2016 (and several years before and after). I was far from being alone in feeling so; before switching all that sweet blog-money for a chance to be a jug player in Stewe Vinwood’s Traffic Engineering, Double-You described it as “a hideously miasmic blend of [death & doom] into one smog-belching, carbon rich atmosphere of all-encompassing gloom,” and went on to remark that “if the solution to pollution is dilution, Mizmor is dumping all the toxic sludge in the river to drown out any hope for a cure.”
Three lie before me: faith, death, consent. Inescapable tributary, all go through you. One will prevail, of this I am sure.
Influenced by Albert Camus’ musings on the premise that life is devoid of ultimate meaning (and how mankind cannot keep itself from seeking it), Cairn is intent on being as emotionally draining, painful, exhausting and massive as Yodh was to the unexpectant masses.
Even though the years between Yodh and Cairn have not been spent in a ponderous state of quiescence, I’ve found it difficult to devote attention to the compilations, live renditions and “This Unabating Wakefulness” single that have filled the interval. So monumental is Yodh that each time I feel myself drawn towards Mizmor, it is their only record I reach for; it’s taken so long to wrap my head around that I feel there is still more to uncover. And since Cairn is no easier a record, I find the time I’ve been allowed to spend with it is reasonably inadequate. And so I must refer to what has been to articulate and attempt to understand what is.
Reduction to absurdity, God ground to powder, Scattered in the wind, the sand beneath my feet. Never to return, a lotus cannot slake.
Cairn is the most thoroughly written and rehearsed Mizmor material there’s ever been, and the result is easy to hear. A.L.N’s compositions have always been dynamic, but here they’ve been raised to another level; the acoustic sections introduced with “This Unabating Wakefulness” continue making appearances, first in “Desert of Absurdity” as the introduction to the entire record and later in the gargantuan “Cairn To Suicide.” These clean, melancholic guitars take the stage more often than before, but never for long, bringing further changes of pace to the four lengthy songs.
Transitions between sections are executed in such a way that they don’t only service the song, but the pacing of Cairn as a whole; this lends something of a suite-like feeling to its arc and yet Mizmor never becomes so predictable as to automatically follow a doom section with a black section followed by a calmer section etc., which makes Cairn a more endearing and demanding record.
Yodh’s bass-heavy mix has been switched for a more even and expressive sound here, and though I greatly enjoyed the additional pummeling that it enabled especially during the most wrathful, fastest sections, Cairn’s mix does greater justice to its material. All the instruments are clear but the crunchier, crushing wall of guitars is the dominant feature with sharp tremolo riffs cutting through it when necessary.
Senselessness sings a siren’s song. Deafen your ear sor be wrung by the neck. Stay. Remain. Obey the flame.
One change that is not so readily apparent at first, but which has had a great impact on the sound of the record, is the lack of drone. Yes, Mizmor is still as inflicted with the extremely slow-burning doom, but there’s a constant sense of direction and movement being prioritized over tension, though the record hardly lacks in ways of the latter either. Yodh would sometimes slow down to such a crawl that it would become all tension, all weight. Cairn keeps itself closer to funeral doom territory apart from, perhaps, the ultimate closure of “The Narrowing Way,” a decision that would seem to further enhance the feeling of album-length movement and tie the songs together.
Cairn is a massive record exploring existential dread and personal suffering wrought by nature, religion and life, building on everything Mizmor has released so far, yet it offers little more than the hope of catharsis to come. It will take a long time to decide where I stand with it, but for now, I find that the hope is enough.
4/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
The vulnerable universe Strikes a human chord – Resound. Relate. Create.