Six years ago I caught Loss opening up for Agalloch, and I found myself immersed in their devastating brand of funeral doom. Their album Despond, which I promptly sought out when I got home, held the same mesmerizing atmosphere they summoned on stage. Everything fans of this band liked about Despond is intact on new album Horizonless, but the band have also built up from that foundation. Some of the changes are thanks to producer Billy Anderson who has turned their once-intimate take on doom in something more sprawling. The guttural gurgle of vocals is still there, though more vocal colors have been added. There’s more of a scathing, higher-pitched, black-metal-like snarl that explodes out of “The Joy of All Who Sorrow.” The guitars still weave despair-filled melodies around the plod of the drums, but do so with uglier sonics injected into the chord progressions. This album is very much doom, but they test its boundaries, as even the first song even builds into something more like black metal.
Loss’ trademark sound is far from forsaken on Horizonless and can be found in the lingering clean guitar melody resurfaces in a more dynamic fashion of “Naught.” It’s on songs like this where I the band gives me everything I could want from them. It’s these moments that create more cohesion with the almost-death-metal sections earlier in the album. It’s always good to hear a band trying new things, as long as they don’t abandon their strengths. Loss reaches an excellent balance in doing this. They even take me by surprise and go in an even darker direction than I could have hoped for with the elegant creepiness on “The End Steps Forth,” with a pipe organ following a piano intro. The vocals have more of a breathy chant than growl here. This song serves as almost more of an intro to the lush title track that only flirts with the more delicate guitar before beginning to build around the two-minute mark. Toward the end of the song clean vocals come in with a low, gothic baritone.
“Banishment” is like a murky death metal interlude with a sample running through it as the growls roar out from what feels like an angrier place. “Death is All” goes into a more introspective melancholy and finds Loss locked into the sound they now own. This one builds into a more sonic heaviness with touches of black metal ugliness counterbalanced by more melodic guitar textures. Those gothic vocals also make another appearance at the climax of this song. Horizonless is a triumph for Loss and for doom metal itself, despite not rigidly holding onto its strictest definitions.