First review of the new year and starting off with something short. Portland based one-man act, Mizmor (מזמור) recently put out a two track E.P that has one fantastic track and another that I am not so fond of, but we will get more into that later.
I first reviewed this band in 2019 on a FCU podcast, I had never heard the band before but was thoroughly engrossed by its existential quality. The music can be described as a combination of doom and black metal, but I would not call it sludge (the usual sub-genre encompassing bands that mix these two genres). Instead, I would say this infusion is much more unique, rather than being a doomy sound that is more abrasive, it is a black metal foundation that is much slower and drawn out almost bordering on funeral doom but with none of the death metal sentiments. Just describing the band gives me joy, the originality that can be formed out of two very familiar sounds is always a wonder to me, especially the hands of a talented artist and songwriter.
As mentioned already, Wit’s End is a two-track release, one of the tracks falls neatly into the descriptors offered above, while the other is entirely ambient. Now I will level my first criticisms lightly and with care as I do not want to imply that I dislike this release, but where the first track gets me right in the feels, drawing my soul slowly from my body like a cleansing ritual, the second just does not hit home for me. Now I want to preface this criticism by saying, I love ambient music and I have no problem with the track, but I find the flow of the E.P to be jarring. I understand there is supposed to be a sense of juxtaposition but after listening to this release multiple times I can’t help but feel bored as the first track finishes and the second begins. Granted the more I listen to it the more it grows on me, but the transition is such an anti-climax. The first track is full of a conflict and seems to build exponentially. When the energy from the first track peaks and dissipates the atmosphere that follows does not feel appropriate. Not only do I not like the transition of mood, but I feel that the first song is full of depth, compositionally, the second track feels like a really long filler.
I think I would enjoy both tracks more if they were accompanied by something complementary rather than contrasting because it feels like I am listening to title tracks from two very different albums. To reiterate I do not think the ambient piece is a bad piece of music, but I feel I just do not like the combination of these two tracks. The first track leaves me wanting more of the same and the second track puts me into a insipid, tranquil mood that does not satiate my appetite.
Let me get into more details now, starting with the title track ‘Wit’s End’. The instant the music begins, I am hit with waves of nostalgia, the guitar chords rich and suspended. I feel the loss of others, the loss of self. A sense that I am slipping out of this reality. The voice-over sounds worn out, exhausted even. The words speak to the loss of science, and reason. To my mind this is about our current era of post-truth, the distrust of science and the widespread popularity of conspiracies however it could easily be about the opposite. As many conspiracy types would say, to believe in mainstream science is part of the subversive, totalitarian grift. Whichever way you swing, the voice-over is vague enough to go either way so no matter which side of the fence you sit we can probably all get behind the sentiments of this rant (winky face).
Three minutes in the distortion kicks in and all sense of wistful nostalgia shifts into crushing despair. The guitar remains in a similar harmonic structure but is broken up by single notes and harmonised lyrical runs that tears apart the grey sky, lifting you up to the blinding sun. The vocals that enter are caustic, stinging at your ears with a tone that is vitriolic at best, sickening at worst. The sense of utter anguish is evident. Of the lyrics that are audible, words such as “illusion” and “annihilation” stick out. These tie in well with the general tenor of the music.
The texture is so thick, yet spacious, mostly thanks to a combination of a disgustingly thick guitar tone and a slow tempo. At 5:30 a tremolo guitar part is added, adding more textural depth to a sound I thought was already saturated to the limit. The wonders of slow and spacious music. The song feels to build to the half-way mark, trudging along, like the unstoppable passage of time. At seven minutes the texture is lightened as vocals and additional guitar drop out. A return to desolation. After a short fermata the song returns to full texture, vocals seemingly more exacerbated and unhinged than before. Although the riffs are repeated the music feels even more pressing, the fervour growing to unnatural heights. The outro is punctuated by a shriek that fades to nothing, the shriek is one that seems delivered on an inward breath, terse and otherworldly. The song slowly dissipates into nothing, like a ghost that has been set free from its earthly coil.
Now I absolutely adore this song, and that is why I struggle with the following one, ‘Pareidolia’. I won’t be able to review this track in as much detail as there isn’t as much to say, at least in my opinion. The piece is tranquil and features a lot of reversed sounds. In some ways the piece almost sounds like an entire track that has just been reversed. This is part of the reason I am not a huge fan of it. Many things sound interesting in reverse, but this does not mean I want to listen to 15 minutes of reversed sound. Now I may be being too harsh here, the song may be more crafted than I am giving it credit for but as mentioned earlier this whole track feels like a filler. To do my due diligence I have been listening to it in its entirety every time I approach this E.P and almost every time I have the urge to skip it and listen to the first track again.
I will state again, on an album full of tracks like this, I would be less critical but going from one well crafted, thoughtful, engaging piece of music to a throw away track that sounds like it could fit in anywhere just feels a bit lazy. The mood of the track is great and overall, I cannot fault the piece of music as it stands alone but is just a disappointing piece to follow ‘Wit’s End’. I think my main problem with ‘Pareidolia’ is how little I can draw out of it for this review. That could be a failing of my own analytical skills and at the end of the day, this is just my own opinion, take it or leave it.
I, of course would recommend this E.P just for the first track, maybe you might even love the second one which is your right. Perhaps I’m just bitter that I didn’t get as much Mizmor as I would have liked this time around and so I await the next release with excitement.
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