It’s the dead of summer, and yet some massive, dark and ominous clouds have rolled in, casting a pall over an otherwise bright landscape. I have reason to believe that Aldebaran has something to do with this. Embracing the Lightless Depths, the band’s second album, doesn’t simply bear a colorful name, it seemingly saps all the light from everything that comes near it, enshrouding in darkness any person or thing within earshot. This is doom taken to its bleakest and most draining extreme.
Portland’s Aldebaran specialize in a particularly elegant but gut-wrenching form of funeral doom metal the likes of which Evoken and Asunder have made not so much famous as infamous via slow, agonizing tempos and epic song structures. Such is the modus operandi for Embracing the Lightless Depths, a five-track set comprising two songs that stretch beyond 25 minutes apiece, and three shorter instrumentals that aren’t so much metal as they are post-rock, performed with grace and great care. It’s to Aldebaran’s credit that these transitional pieces are there, however, their atmospheric and gentle sounds providing a palate cleanser after the two powerful monoliths that surround them. Yet those very monoliths are the focal points of the album, and with good reason. “Forever in the Dream of Death” initially comes across as a gentle piece, but within minutes it escalates to a devastating, harrowing dirge, driven by the darkest of guitar harmonies, and Tim Call’s indecipherable, guttural death metal growl. “Sentinel of a Sunless Abyss,” however, frontloads its beastly immensity, later descending into a prettier, yet still quite fearsome epic.
An album such as Embracing the Lightless Depths is a bit of a challenge to listen to on a casual basis. And yet, giving its dark and devastating churn one’s full attention might have the unintended consequence of ruining one’s afternoon. So, a word to the wise: chase it with some Mötörhead. Aldebaran’s harrowing journey is one worth taking, but only if you know the way out.