DOWNFALL OF GAIA – Silhouettes of Disgust (Album Review)

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With a growing extraversion and drive to innovate becoming increasingly apparent across the extreme metal world, it is no great shock that a band that prides itself on creating a delectable melting pot of sonic hodgepodgery such as Downfall of Gaia would release an album such as “Silhouettes of Disgust” which to my admittedly rather uneducated ears incorporates no fewer than 5 metal and rock genres across its fascinating 45-minute runtime. In many ways though, these influences are subservient to a Depressive Black Metal core, only accentuating it and providing thematic context. So then, is “Silhouettes of Disgust” a well-reasoned melding of contemporary sounds, or is it an unfocused morass, so preoccupied with what it “could” be that it forgets what it “should” be? Read on to find out.

It would be a lie to say that the very opening moments of “Silhouettes of Disgust”are well handled, a single bar of ambient noise precursors a slightly bland and poorly produced segment of traditional black metal riffage causing there to be a coarse transition into the album, but thankfully things are much better from the moment the prominent and punk-laced drumming becomes present in the mix, and the excellent vocals burst into the piece, they themselves a mix between the relentless anguish of a tormented soul and the anoxic throes of a sinner hanging alone from gallows of his own making. With competent song evolution shifting the track from punkier, thrash infused periods of relative of intensity to melodious post-rock/post-black segments brimming with a stoic beauty, an emotional gravitas is unerringly present across “Existence of Awe.”

Such subtle and tender emotional packaging is traded for cacophonous rage in earliest parts of “The Whir of Flies” which often sounds like this spiraling, tumbling trip to the bowels of hell, where upon reaching the bottom, you are bombarded with calciferous brimstone that sears and smites the landscape all around. Not to become too one note however, a resolved post-rock segment once again takes over the mid-section of the song, perhaps evocative to some of the feelings of sickening shame and guilt that come after an outburst of aggression, the ruminations of the chronically inexpressive, and the manifestation of internal wounds that can be held shut no longer, only to be poisoned by the air the eventually reaches them. The festering welts and tears ooze crimson recriminations deep to the thematic core of “The Whir of Flies” when things pick back up again in tempo and embrace a rather modern atmo-black aesthetic, with melancholic lead guitars angelically rising above a noisy and bellicose core, such a contrast perfectly encapsulates the dualistic nature of the track, and indeed the often-conflicting emotional interrelationships between negativity, rage, shame and remorse.

In some ways, the less rigid and formal structure offered by genres that remain largely untouched by grubby hyper-corporate hands offer the most conventionally unpalatable aesthetic approaches, allowing themes and compositional angles to be melded together in ways often sublime. Such notions are evidenced in tracks such as the opening two of “Silhouettes of Disgust” whereby topics most uncomfortable are combined with genre-bending idealistic extravagance into a veritable bonanza of rare-as-platinum virtuosic gravitas.

Melodies of unrelenting desperation abound in “While Bloodsprings Become Rivers” which is a progressively more deranged and forlorn affair by the second, with a sonic evolution that cuts deeper and deeper with every passage that is expertly woven into the composition, each segment building upon the momentum given by its antecedent with unerring aplomb. A track best enjoyed alone, in the dark, perhaps even in the freezing cold, a grave seriousness pervades all of “While Bloodsprings Become Rivers” allowing a full emotional range to create an introspective mood deeper than any ocean, more profound than many other works – even within a genre known for such a sound. A truly beautiful song, if only beautiful in the sense that there is beauty in chaos and annihilation to the ear trained and the mind receptive to such a sentiment.

Occasionally, there’s a predilection in modern metal to underutilize the bass guitar, but thankfully Downfall of Gaia understand how effectively they can be used to create an enjoyable opening to a track. “Bodies as Driftwood” is opened with a delightfully morbid yet undeniably groovy bass line with sparse percussion – an approach later repeated after a more traditional black metal segment of the track, albeit with some vocals layered in. However, I wouldn’t say that “Bodies as Driftwood” is a particularly distinctive track amongst the others on “Silhouettes of Disgust” save for this. Though with the average quality of the tracks on the record being higher than that time you smoked weed in 11th grade through an apple bong whilst listening to Pink Floyd, it’s safe to say it doesn’t lower the quality of the album in any way.

“Silhouettes Of Disgust” Artwork

I think the only way I can correctly convey the feelings of listening to this album is to be personal, to be unashamedly emotional, to confessionally express how the album does link to memories of darkest personal moments, not because I am unique in having them – far from it; but because this album is dark, it is personal, it’s got slithers of nostalgia soaked in dejected melancholy, occasionally, resplendent sunbeams of hope come through the cracks of the sonic oubliette only for them to be blotted out by the omnipotent monochrome of depression made audible inherent in the blackest, harshest, most unrelenting periods of “Silhouettes of Disgust.”

A harrowing spectre, or perhaps I should say “silhouette” stalks a fair chunk of “Eyes to Bruning Skies” which dips it’s toes into the gloomy, hazy death march that is funeral doom. A stripped back sound with excellent female vocals comprises the first quarter of the song, before it explodes anew into a rapacious, vicious jaunt of uncontained retribution, lashing out like a bear in a trap, making itself heard like a partisan in front of a firing squad, screaming out into the night as if it could beat it into day. Alas, an utter decimation of any fighting spirit occurs, and once again you’re catapulted into an abyss seemingly without end, in the trademark style which “Silhouettes of Disgust” has coined by this point in its duration.

Sixth track “Final Vows” is a rather unique track on an already genre blending album, not thematically, despondency and ennui still abound across the track, but with a disjointed and fractured nature (in the best way) being apparent at points in the track before meeting a more blackgaze approach harkening visions of Harakiri For the Sky, “Final Vows” feels both more like what you’d expect to hear out of a modern extreme metal band, and yet somehow within the context of the album, fresh and exciting. This clever nod to a contemporary style embedded within a distinctive context is both perfect in terms of positioning within the album and also in the way it is handled. It manages to hit all the hallmarks of Downfall of Gaia’s sonic base whilst simultaneously providing a greater level of accessibility via a re-contextualized application of an otherwise common sound. To make the unoriginal seem original, and nay even be original is no mean feat, and, ironically,  could constitute a creative risk on the part of Downfall of Gaia, but they do not faulter here – not even slightly.

This sort of framing within the album is just one part of a cohesive set of impressive abilities displayed by Downfall of Gaia beyond that goes beyond their impressive musicianship itself. Not only have they seemingly ordered the album properly, but they’ve also, barring a slight wobble in the very opening moments of the album, managed to successfully toes the line between harsh and abrasive production that conveys a homegrown, almost outsider edge, and a professional production job that manages to allow the beauty of the instruments to stand out, and not get lost within the mix. It’s hardly ground-breaking stuff, but it is an important part of why exactly “Silhouettes of Disgust” is so listenable and full of quality.

Lulling us towards the final portion of the album is the venerable “Unredeemable.” It’s another song that just exudes beauty, but of the heart-breaking kind, of the kind that is distinctly human, one that speaks to the human spirit and ineffable optimism that hides within us, one that when confronted by the obscene, the upsetting or the unsettling, decides to find a way to appreciate what it witness, one that defiantly lights a flame in order to melt the vile ice of resignation. In this song, a part of us lives, a part of us is provided a spotlight befitting of its importance to our existence – whether or not we choose to embrace it consciously, or if it resides in a deepest recesses of our unknowable minds. To be this late into an album and to still be beguiled by tracks such as “Unredeemable” is a testament most sincere to the breadth and depth of feeling and sentiment that pervades the album, and this song in particular could not really do it any better than it does with its wonderful melding of genres, immense vocals, jaunty yet impactful percussion and resolved yet energetic energy.

Left with the lofty task of providing a fitting end to “Silhouettes of Disgust” “Optograms of Disgust” doesn’t shirk its responsibilities. Combining the sombre moodiness, technical proficiency and outstanding track evolution that is common across the whole album, “Optograms of Disgust” successfully exalts the work done previous to it in the most ingratiating fashion. It doesn’t deviate from the overriding formula of the album, and frankly, why should it? Instead, it simply focuses on providing a small taster of everything brought into the album thus far. Whilst not the finest track on the album, it sits in the top half of them for sure. It’s probably just as well that this is the final track on “Silhouettes of Disgust” however, as within a few minutes of the end, I was beginning to tire of it all ever so slightly – not to blame “Optograms of Disgust” for this however, and perhaps is more of a rumination on how around 45 minutes tends to be the best length for an album of this type.

Ultimately“Silhouettes of Disgust” takes a depressive black metal core and blends it with a smorgasbord of different elements, stylistic approaches and vibes and smashes them together into a resounding success. Whilst it keeps its experimental nature on the downlow within the compositions themselves, this wonderfully expressive and heartfelt melting pot is not just a great album, but a shoe-in for my personal Album of the Year.

Released By: Metal Blade Records
Release Date: March 17th 2023
Genre(s): Depressive Black Metal / Blackgaze / Hardcore

Musicians:

  • Dominik Goncalves dos Reis / Vocals, Guitars
  • Peter Wolff / Vocals, Guitars
  • Anton Lisovoj / Bass, Vocals
  • Michael Kadnar / Drums

“Silhouettes of Disgust” Track-Listing:

  1. Existence of Awe
  2. The Whir of Flies
  3. While Bloodsprings Become Rivers
  4. Bodies as Driftwood
  5. Eyes to Burning Skies
  6. Final Vows
  7. Unredeemable
  8. Optograms of Disgust

Order “Silhouettes of Disgust” HERE.

8.8 Excellent

I can hardly emphasize how much I recommend listening to Downfall of Gaia. With its dark, foreboding nature, excellent variety of styles and approaches, accomplished musicianship and solid production values, an album that will stand the test of time in the hearts of those who hear it is cemented within the morose walls of “Silhouettes of Disgust”

  • Songwriting 9.5
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Originality 9
  • Production 8
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