There seems to be a resurgence of funeral doom afoot. Since Evoken dropped the absolutely massive and mournful Atma Mors back in 2012 to wild (and deserved) acclaim, there has been a slow return to the style, which for a while seemed lost in time, relegated to the lone, brilliant Thergothon record and its like but spreading no further. History, after all, had seen fit to take a different course, privileging sludge and post-metal over the more melodramatic and substantially less punk-adjacent partner in doom. But then Bell Witch came along and delivered so far two of the most brilliant records in the genre with 2012’s Longing and last year’s Album of the Year-worthy Four Phantoms. Barren Earth released their excellent album On Lonely Towers last year. And now Mizmor has joined the fold with Yodh.
First, the bad news: Mizmor doesn’t show on Yodh the genius-level differentiation that led to Four Phantoms being such a clear list-topper. Four Phantoms featured a well-composed and thoughtful concept of elements of suffering passing a human soul through an endless cycle of punishment which framed and guided the compositions, offering that extra aesthetic and artistic impetus behind the extended, progressive compositions. Likewise, the playing on Four Phantoms was hinged on the virtuosic six-string bass playing and occasional painful, thin, weakened-by-torture clean vocals of Dylan Desmond.
Yodh, meanwhile, is a bit more direct in its approach. The tracks are still lengthy sojourns, mind, but the riffing stays a fairly direct course, either ripping black metal or slow glacial doom with heavily retched vocals to match. As a result, the tracks can feel very similar one to another and a sense of palpable progression through the tracks and through the album can be hard to get until you’ve heard the album multiple times and can begin to piece together the order of small accentuations over its course. Likewise, the tracklisting, album title and art, those elements that typically work to congeal and more strongly cohere an aesthetic unity or artistic direction, here instead feel to be of a typical post-Agalloch art metal mold. Which, admittedly, is not necessarily a bad thing; there’s still plenty of mood generated here by those elements, and its capitalized on by the music. It just doesn’t feel necessarily as robust or intense or eruptive as the Bell Witch record, or say the Gevurah album from this year.
The good news is, bluntly, that the riffs are excellent and the production captures their energy perfectly. On the musical end, this album is no slouch; the riffs snarl and bite in three-dimensions, the black metal tremolos remain meaty and frightening as doom metal demands, and a roundness of mids and bass presence remains in the work throughout, never reducing it to paper-thin parodic metal stereotype or polishing the roughness till it feels like isolated tracks laid together by a producer. This is a keenly played record, and the riffs move through one another in a logical and satisfying way. The ends of songs never quite feel right, but only in that you could imagine the songs continuing to develop and unfurl nearly forever; the way the songs feel so similar to one another, and how seamlessly the end of the record links up to its beginning, means in a way they do.
Best of all, Mizmor brings the churning fire and intensity of black metal into the space of funeral doom without sacrificing the mood. The associated images of the black metal crypt-mystic and their ancient evil magick arcing in vicious bolts across the dead stone of a crumbling mausoleum are still at play here, only now the mausoleum is the richer and grander dead stone of vast halls of the immortal dead envisioned by funeral doom. This is, despite its weaknesses, a very cinematic and accomplished record in its moods and images. It doesn’t quite have that extra something to really drive it beyond and into clear year-end territory, but this is still an excellent extreme metal album and will reward any time spent with it.