This morning, I took a bit of a tumble down the rabbit hole. Except instead of finding opium-smoking insects and mentally ill hat proprietors, the charred landscape was filled with perverse creatures beyond comprehension. Thus is the not-so-whimsical world of Deuil, a black metal act out Liege, Belgium. With only two roughly 30 minute EP’s on bandcamp, Deuil follows the same less-is-more philosophy that has worked well for rising acts like Malthusian. What Shock/Deny may lack in girth, it makes up for in palpable atmosphere.
But make no mistake, this is not the cheerful, indie-riff-infused “atmospheric black metal” that seems to become ever more popular these days. No. This is a lone walk through a dark, twisted forest. A gaze into the abyss. Deuil harken back to the early days of Burzum, where lengthy compositions were filled with equal parts malice and mystique. Not post-rock and meditative catharsis.
To grossly oversimplify, Shock/Deny has two modes: groove-driven trudges and tremolo-blastbeat frenzies. The former is highly focused on riff, with layered guitars and crunchy basslines. The rhythm parts maintain a trance-inducing focus on time with which one can’t resist bobbing their head. The lead guitar then takes this hypnosis to the deranged with simple, circular picking patterns that stick in the mind. “Deny” is arguably quite doomy with its molasses pacing, sustained bass notes, and even some female spoken-word. There are also some brief ambient sections at the open and close of “Shock” that would have been right at home on a Silent Hill game soundtrack.
When things pick up pace, and they will, transitions are quite smooth. Almost Tool-ish delay effects give way to pounding drums and walls of distortion. Jangly guitars a la early Gorgoroth or Taake threaten to wear the pick down to a nub with their speed and ferocity. While these segments are extremely melodious, you can leave your fedora at home, because Sunbather this ain’t. The emotions I find myself awash in are those of grief, sorrow, and regret.
I have to say that Shock/Deny is a marked step up from the previous Acceptance/Rebuild. The polar-opposite album title is a pretty strong indicator of the shift. Compositions have been tightened up greatly with memorable hooks, fetching drums, and above all, more powerful vocals. Deuil have dropped the under-produced, distant howls for sickening wretches more comparable to Melechesh or even Indian. Front and center, this added presence completes the increased focus on the evil and unhinged.
Final word: skip the McDonalds today and spend your 5 Euro on this album. It’s rich with atmosphere, tightly constructed, and highly emotive. I think those who enjoyed the Akhlys debut this year will also find much to revel in with Shock/Deny. Also recommended for fans of Burzum, Leviathan, and perhaps even Lord Mantis. Here’s hoping Deuil only continue to grow and mature in the years to come. You can stream and purchase the album on bandcamp.