Drouth’s Excerpts from a Dread Liturgy is spot on for my taste. For all intents and purposes, it is a black metal album but adds some atmospheric and progressive elements to the mix; it’s also layered with catchy and beautiful melodies and occasionally terrifying harmonies.
The band is a four-piece from Portland, Oregon, where so many good bands just happen to come from. The act manages to combine a rich melodic quality with pure viciousness. The product is a cyclopean soundscape that is both bewitching yet devoid of light. I often have trouble reviewing albums I like too much as there is far less to be critical of though you will find one criticism below albeit a minor one. For that reason, I decided to do a deep dive into the first two tracks off the album to give a more precise picture of what to expect when listening to this record.
We kick off with “A Drowning in Sunlight” which begins with a morose yet alluring picked guitar part before flying headfirst into a flurry of shredded riffs and animalistic screaming. At around 1:15 the texture diminishes as the vocals fall out and the drums move into a slow back-beat playing along with similar harmonies to which we heard in the beginning. This tension and release is something that becomes a trope for this album. The way the band plays with texture throughout has to be one of the most exciting elements of the experience. A great example of this is at 2:38 where the music returns to the stripped-down section mentioned earlier (1:15); however, this time, the rhythm has changed, and vocals are included.
In Excerpts, Drouth constantly seems to be experimenting with variation and ways to subvert expectations particularly when it comes to repeated material. Just before the four-minute mark, the track devolves into a slow sludge-like crawl, as if to mimic some cosmic horror creeping across the vastness of the ocean depths. Sticking with tradition this section does not linger for too long and once again transitions into pure chaos. I can’t get enough of the contrast between melody and dissonance that seem to constantly be battling each other for airtime throughout this section. My highlight of the song has to be the twin harmonised guitars that break out of the murk at 5:30. I often find with more progressive music that there is one tiny part that might catch my ear and then I am forever waiting for that part when I listen through the album again. This is that moment.
Track two, “The Apiarist” has a slightly less chaotic quality to it, however, it might even be my preferred track of the two. Once again, the melodic work is fantastic. The picked guitar parts seem to yearn for some lost past. As the drums frantically begin another beautiful harmonised guitar part is played. This does bring me to a small criticism of the album as it becomes very apparent in this preceding section how little bass is present in the mix. Initially, I thought the harmonised guitars were played without bass at that moment but now that I listen closer it is almost impossible to tell. I can hear some sort of bass sound in the faster sections that proceed but it is so muffled and basically inaudible. This does not often matter so much as generally the thickness of the guitar tones combined with the drums and vocals covers most of the frequency spectrum but when fewer notes and textures are heard the absence of bass becomes more apparent.
But back to the track. As we make our way through the piece, the genre transforms into a progressive rock sound reminiscent of Opeth, Åkerfeldt-style solo included. This section is short-lived, however, and true to the progressive rock genre, plows headfirst through multiple sections of new material, each section only lasting a short while before returning to a familiar riff. The rest of this piece is made up of things that continue as features of all the tracks to come: an interplay between tension and release; experimentation in texture. Haunting yet disorientating harmony and progressive yet still incredibly memorable song-writing. I also want to give a mention to the lyrical content of the album as the writing has a mature and introspective quality to it that often leaves me waxing philosophical after reading through them. Nothing quite like some existential black metal lyrics.
This album is everything I want in a black metal release. It still has some of what made classic black metal good but also has come a far way from its roots and draws in so many more influences that it makes it fresh. This is a must-listen, if not a must buy.
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You can grab a digital copy of Excerpts from a Dread Liturgy over on Drouth’s Bandcamp page or on Spotify. Vinyls, discs, and other merch can also be found on the Bandcamp page link above.
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