Review: Downfall of Gaia – Ethic of Radical Finitude

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When someone describes a band as being atmospheric I always fear that I’m about to listen to something that lacks punch or simply just too pretentious. I wasn’t always apprehensive about the term but within the last few years I’ve heard one too many bands using the descriptor while simply sounding like a discount Deafheaven or Agalloch.

Downfall of Gaia, a band often tagged with my much dreaded “atmospheric” tag, has certainly been around long enough to not be another clone of the aforementioned bands. In fact, when they formed back in 2006 they were originally focused on making d-beat and crust punk. In 2008 they decided to focus on longer songs and adapting their current name. It wasn’t until 2010 when they released their first full length, Epos which was noted for its doom metal and post-rock sensibilities.

While Downfall of Gaia’s history as a band may be interesting, my previous encounters with the the music has often left me respectful of their work but mostly disinterested in their output. With the release of Ethic of Radical Finitude, I decided to give them another shot. Will Downfall of Gaia’s music finally connect with me or will I be left disinterested again?

Starting with the album’s titleI was concerned that this album might be a little too pretentious for me. And to start things off there is nearly three minute long intro track. Like most intros, it doesn’t much arouse my interests.

Fortunately, moving past a lackluster intro, rest of the album is quite enjoyable. The band doesn’t shy away from incorporating black metal prominently in the mix. While the guitars and blast beats scream black metal, the vocals still retain more of a sludge quality to them with the occasional black metal scream. Mercifully, the band uses atmosphere to to great effect without being distracting or mundane. In fact the only weak song (aside from the intro) is “Guided Through a Starless Night”, which meanders along for three minutes too long with some spoken word over a soft instrumental part of the track.

Picking a favorite track from this album is difficult for me. While Ethic of Radical Finitude as a whole is enjoyable, when listening through the songs start to sound the same to me. While each track individually may not stand out, as a whole I found this album to be the perfect soundtrack for my walk to work on a cold, snow-less morning with a brisk wind at my back. The depressing, atmospheric black metal perfectly complimenting my cold, bleak, and dark surroundings.

Where does that leave this album? Compared to the band’s previous material it may not be particularly innovative and even a bit momentous. On the other hand, its an enjoyable album that isn’t overly pretentious. This is an album that needs just a little bit something more, particularly a bit of variety to the individual songs. With that I have to give this album 3.5 out of 5 flaming toilets ov hell.

Ethic of Radical Finitude comes out on February 8th on Metal Blade Records.

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