Departures by Death Will TrembleRelease date: June 29, 2018
Departures is a follow-up EP to Death Will Tremble’s 2016 debut album, Mona. Compared to Mona the new EP sounds a lot more developed – the production is better, the mix is improved; it just sounds more professional. The band’s sound has changed, too, with Departures aiming for a more honest, visceral, emotionally charged atmosphere. And they give that in spades.
Departures is a single-track, 13-minute EP dealing with loss, grief and pain. Vocalist Hunter Townsend and his guitarist brother Chase lost their father during the recording of the previous album, and the music of Departures is loaded with the anguish of that loss. It’s not an easy listen, especially at the start. Leaden riffs underpin the harrowed cries of Hunter that rip through the early minutes of the track. It reminded me of early Rollins Band for sheer naked honesty and refusal to compromise, along with the pared-back sound that relies on nothing but the slow pace of the music to make its crushing point.
The sludge of the track’s early minutes then changes to an instrumental interlude with a ponderous melody that gives the track more light and space, moving beyond the claustrophobic opening. The band have aimed to make a single cohesive work rather than breaking it up into separate tracks, and the melding of the parts works well. Later on Hunter’s repeated angonised cries of “pull yourself together!” and spoken-word pleas rip into the track, and the weight of emotion bears down on the listener once again.
I was ambivalent to the idea of a single track being labelled an EP, and my initial thoughts were that it should be part of a longer release. On repeated listens I’ve changed my mind – it does bear scrutiny and stand up well on its own. As an exercise in showcasing the band’s talents in one relatively brief piece of music, packing in emotional and atmospheric intensity, Death Will Tremble have pulled it off. But beware: it’s no walk in the park. Departures is a harrowing and intense listen that leaves its mark long after the last bars have faded.