Label: Solitude Productions
Release Date: 15 July 2019
Format: Digital Download
Some music seems unattached to any particular setting, or season, or hour or climate. Sometimes songs just exist as they do, to be appreciated when and wherever and to have the listener impose their own experiences and perspectives onto them. Then there is that other category, the music that evokes a strong feeling of its place in our world; maybe it’s a scorching hot summer, or a frozen winter, a quiet, lethargic dawn, or a wild hedonistic evening under the neon lights of a frenetic city centre. Fragilium, the newly released album by English Doom Metal band Consecration is definitely of the latter category. Titles such as “To Welcome The Grey” and “In Darkened Slumber” indicate the kind of world the listener is poised to be drawn into. It’s a world set deep into the night, away from traffic and city lights; some ancient, secluded church and graveyard would probably fit the scene perfectly (in fact the opening track includes what could be a church bell). In any case this is definitely music for the night, for wandering through the fields under a bright moon. It would be nice if I could write this review in such a setting, but unfortunately I have a day job.
Of the five tracks that make up the album, only the opener “In Darkened Slumber” comes in under 10 minutes. The music is not in a hurry to get anywhere; rather the band draws you into a netherworld where sounds drift like mist along a dark river. The sparse instrumentation of the opening track (clear guitar arpeggios, with occasional bass) is soothing; you might not suspect that this will be a metal album. Only when the doom riffing and gravelly Death Metal vocals of “A Sentinel For The Fragile” kick in does the other side of the band becomes apparent. When the band shows their heavier side, the guitar tone especially reminds me of the sick, overdriven sound old school Floridian Death Metal, but with tracks drawn out to a more funerial pace and length.
The contrast between peace and disharmony is most clearly made by the vocals. Whenever these growling, guttural noises burst in, alongside slow to mid-tempo riffing and more aggressive percussion the peaceful spell the band casts is broken. In some ways, this contrast the band plays with is a strength and adds colour to the songs, but while the simplicity of the calmer passages is effective in its soothing qualities, the limited range and raw delivery of the vocals becomes jarring after a while. Listening to this album I wonder from time to time what the music would sound like with a more expressive Hardcore vocal style like Discharge or early Neurosis instead of the gravelly growls. The instrumentation is so effective in transporting me to another place, sometimes even emotive as well as evocative, but the vocals can feel more of a distraction than a fitting addition.
The snappily titled “In Somnus Ego Morrier (In My Sleep I Die)” offers perhaps the most satisfyingly complete musical journey of the album’s five tracks. Starting out with a sparse, crawling drum beat led by an insistent ride rhythm and an expansive bass and guitar melody, the track starts out mournful and emotive until the vocals come in and take the song in a more abrasive direction. The melodic lines are slow and simple and there’s a great descending guitar line. Here the contrast between smooth and harsh guitar tones works well.
Final track “To Welcome The Grey” meanwhile, starts out with a deep guitar into, more reminiscent of Crowbar or Down, with a nice change in some hushed vocals, before the track transitions into something a little reminiscent of ‘A Sun That Never Sets’ era Neurosis (but a really stripped back version of that).
The nocturnal world this music creates for me is appealing and the music is altogether likeable. That being said I feel like it never quite reaches the heights it could. Aside from the fairly limited vocals I mentioned, the production could be fuller and more impactful. Some of the soloing and guitar melodies feel a bit unfocused and doodling. The playing is tight, but I find myself wishing for more surprising melodic twists and some big crushing moments that don’t quite come. Altogether it’s a case of an enjoyable, haunting journey, but a feeling that it could be something more. 7/10 Tom
7/10 Victory is possible
**Please support the underground! It’s vital to the future of our genre