Gloomseeker deal in depression. Not merely an ample amount of it or a singular concept of it, but rather the variety and shades of depression, both sonically and lyrically. Developing a weathered and industrial shoegaze sound into an instrument all its own, The Violet Grim has a purposeful mission statement, direct from the artist: “an overall attempt to address the delicate balancing act between our dwindling life and its direct passing into death, essentially reconnecting us with these uncomfortable truths.” The Violet Grim, true to its name, is a channeling of those truths.
Gloomseeker first began to channel those truths four years ago with their Gloomseeker’s self-titled release, a debut in which soundscapes of violent apathy and seismic devastation created a unique industrial world that felt at times achingly familiar, like a painful yet distant memory re-lived. It became evident from some of the album’s more enthralling tracks that a potential was taking shape, a direction solidified by a four-year gap and the tumult of the past year.
In stark contrast to prior efforts, some of the most interesting moments on The Violet Grim arrive in cathartic form, the quietest moments on the album speaking the loudest, pushing past its arc of doom and expansive reverb to find solace. Even still these moments, like the end of “Resonance of Death on a Friday Afternoon,” are tinged with a haunting melancholy, that same lingering wound that can’t seem to heal.
Gloomseeker has stated that the album lyrically is “in part influenced by traditional Slavic poems compiled through time.” This folk-like quality bleeds into certain sonic components throughout, yet is never overly pronounced. The lead harmony on “Down in the Well” bears the closest structure to an Eastern European folk song, filtered through layers of dying electronics, somber pianos, and a cavernous percussive suite. That same suite of percussion is some of the most interesting on the album as well, leading the second half of the song into a furious repose with a simple cadence.
From sampled sounds of presumably crushed bones on “I am the Great Impostor” to buried vocals, most of the album is a series of layers, each track offering a further examination of those layers, sometimes completely eclipsing their intent with furious soundscapes that have near infinite expanse. Sometimes, purposeful claustrophobia is the intent, the focus and form of the track. The album’s soundscapes are often littered with a sense of expanse that conveys an impressive ambition. Gloomseeker explore lofty, and ever increasingly melancholy scales, creating something particularly moving in the final two minutes of “The Inevitable Drowning of Morena,” with embellished guitars that tilt into a repeated snare as a cavernous howl shakes the listener’s bones.
Gloomseeker’s penchant for grinding, arrhythmic industrial percussion has carried on from 2017’s self titled throughout all of The Violet Grim. This is perhaps where the influence of artists like Have a Nice Life, and other Flenser alumni is undeniable. Yet, it’s Gloomseeker’s own aptitude for textured grandiosity that helps solidify their identity. The Violet Grim is a bittersweet spectacle of bronze industrial waste, walls of reverb, and a folk tinge that gives it ample character. Working with a mythology wrought from Eastern Europe, its apocalyptic sounds often give way to moments of acceptance and of comfort. A fitting reflection for the past five years.