DOWNFALL OF GAIA: Silhouettes of Disgust

Silhouettes of Disgust



POST-BLACK METAL: There’s a life coursing through Silhouettes of Disgust. It’s a life that bands of this melodic/progressive black metal ilk (even Downfall of Gaia themselves) recurrently struggle to achieve. Bands with backgrounds in the black arts will go on and on about their raw recordings, but that purported rawness often gets sacrificed in the name of quantized perfection, overtone eradication, and other recording practices inversely proportional to the idea of “raw,” even if it’s never fessed up to. Not that this German/American outfit has done an 180 degree spin-o-rama and is teetering on the brink of early Misfits live shows, but there are a number of instances where drummer Michael Kadnar’s meter noticeably wavers, inadvertently adding to the authentic realism of tracks like “Existence of Awe” and “When Bloodsprings Become Rivers.” And the amount of sonic space offered by the melodic layers in “Optograms of Disgust” and “Final Vows” (not to mention the latter’s brilliantly clipped intro effect) create a magnanimously massive feel—a feel of clinical reduction where warmth and vibe trump note perfect perfection. 

Both the band’s broad palette of sound—D-beat crust, tectonic post-rock, lurching noise rock, and black metal remain the chief ingredients—and their utilization of sweeping chord voicings allow for more melodic and harmonic movement as well as shocks of dissonance and consonance. “Unredeemable” spans from grating and abrasive washes of strumming through to soaring sounds that are almost alt-rock in nature. Picture Ned’s Atomic Dustbin’s guitarist Gareth “Rat” Pring sitting in with his Echoplex delay, Boss RV-6 reverb, and Dunlop MXR chorus pedals all maximally dialed. 

What’s good and engaging about this, the band’s sixth record, is that it’s not just about fancy sonic mixtures that only effects pedal nerds will appreciate. Downfall of Gaia employs all the arrows in their creative writing quiver to create pieces that emerge with crust punk simplicity and applied to complex structures with solid beginnings, middles, and ends. Imagine a lurching volley welding the strengths of Cult of Luna, Tragedy, and Tombs and you’ve got “The Whir of Flies.” “Existence of Awe” references more of the layered, progressive wail of Agrimonia than it does the atmospheric mope of Ash Borer, even if some of that mope is skulking in the background and contributing to an acerbically sullen mood. And the second half of “Bodies as Driftwood” sports a riff that taps into classic Italian hardcore over which an homage to the darker side of Brit rock runs. That then turns toward a Dead Can Dance jam, complete with morose and wispy choral vocals. If this description of this subsuming of sounds is something that captures your interest, there’s certainly much to be had on an album like Silhouettes of Disgust that synthesizes things so seamlessly. ~ Kevin Stewart-Panko