By: Nick Dodds
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Hello there doom patron, and welcome to Ortega! I’m the reviewer, and I’ll be your guide for this evening’s Doomgustation menu, Sacred States. The band have been slaving away preparing you a feast of five dishes, with a whole world of wonder. I think you’ll find that they’ve excelled themselves with this particular selection of tasty morsels, and I look forward to guiding you through its many flavours. I do hope your taste buds are ready…. Now, will you be wine matching this evening?
Up first is ‘Strong Eye’, a number that some might find a little harsh on the initial mouth/nose. If that’s you, I strongly suggest you persevere as it’s worth it. You’ll notice fuzzed up guitars beating a steady cadence betwixt your ears as those delightful drums come in, urging you to have more. Before you know it I guarantee that your taste buds will be exploding as it kicks in fully, delightful fuzz dancing around you, throaty vocals echoing in your ears as it all clashes together inside you, showing you exactly what Ortega are about. Delightful, isn’t it? Yes, I agree, this 2001 Call of R’lyeh Cabernet matches well. Make sure you mix it all together though to get the full experience… Might I be so bold as to suggest that during the breakdown/bridge? You might find that an opportune time to focus on what these boys are trying to do. Revel in the build up. The melange of flavours swirling around you. Because just as you feel that you’re used to it, enjoying it, and needing it, it’ll be over. With an abrupt, final crash of guitars it’s done. But like any good first offering, it doesn’t over stay its welcome. Leaves you needing more.
Next we have ‘Maelstrom’ – I think you’ll find this to be quite a precocious little number. Reminiscent of perhaps Mastodon, you’ll notice this build with smooth crashing cymbals, rolling toms and echoing, cavernous vocals. Not to be outdone the guitars and bass push everything forward, allowing the track to grow and breathe. What’s that? Why yes, I do agree – the presentation is fantastic here! But hark, before you get too comfortable with it the creators have planned for it to lull you down somewhat, as a plaintive vocal scream leaves you bereft, before swooning walls of feedback carry you on to the next section.
Ah yes, ‘Descending Ladders’. I think you’ll find this an interesting palate cleanser, with a few cheeky little changes thrown in to keep you on your toes. Have you noticed the detuned guitars? The shuffling, shambling rhythm, careening ever forwards? Perhaps the cries reminiscent of a dying man, clamouring for his last breath as the world slowly envelops him? I find this to come along at just the right time, refreshing you in ways you’d previously not thought of. The low slung bass resonating within you, the drums crushing, the guitars chugging yet somehow plaintive. An excellent amuse bouche, not to begin the service, but to refresh you and prepare you for what’s to come….
Ladies and gentlemen. I give you ‘Crows’. Your humble server has already written something about this particular course a while ago and I think you’ll find it only gets better, just like a fine Yog-Sohoth vintage should. It has everything you could possibly want from a doom piece, and the crystal clear melodies dance around you, providing an excellent counterpoint to the depth and bleakness. This is true black. A total absence of light.
So, you’ve made it this far. Well, it is time. Time to step into the ‘Void’. They have saved the best for last. If your definition of ‘best’ is bleak, doomed, relentless riffery. This number simply oozes hate, despair and lack of redemption. Can you taste it on the back of your palate? That melange of ashes, evil and sheer abandonment? Can you feel the tones swirl around you? The haunting nothingness, the chorale echoing over empty space? I believe you’ll agree with me here – as the final course in this doomgustation menu it’s not just a ‘dessert’, but a desert. A desert as in an absence of…… something. In this case it’s hope. Despair will wash around you, leaving you bereft. Its stark beauty and bleakness like an old friend. For all of those who say there is no beauty in bleakness I counter with this. It is the absence of beauty itself that makes this beautiful. And that is a rare and special thing. As this meal finishes you’ll be left with that final, monotonous guitar chord, cutting, swirling and mashing you down into your seat, the vocals building and building until it all collapses on itself.
And what’s left? Static and ashes, scattered on the breeze.
Just as it should be.
*** I was eagerly waiting for this album after reviewing ‘Crows’ a while back, and I can definitely say that it was worth the wait. Even though ‘Crows’ makes up almost a third of this album, it’s great hearing it in context of the album as a whole. And what a corker of an album. It’s bleak, relentless, black and evil, while still being musical and well thought out. This is an album that has some depth to it. It encourages repeat listenings (hell, it was the only thing I listened too for over a week), and is a great album to get completely lost in. Highly, highly recommended. ***