Penance by Of Spire & ThroneRelease date: December 8, 2018
Label: Aesthetic Death
This is trance music. No, not that kind of trance music, more like the kind that lures you in with its brutal repetition. It’s the sort of music that you would listen to if you were transported into a Hieronymus Bosch painting. The first time listening to this album isn’t easy. Not because the music is bad, but that songs like ‘Reliquary’ are just relentless in their attack. The dynamic in these songs isn’t so much light and shade as it is shade and not quite so much shade.
Penance feels like a natural progression in Of Spire & Throne’s trajectory. They have always been relentlessly brutal, slow, menacing, and dripping with atmosphere. This time around though there are glimpses of twisted melody, subtle guitar lines that rise above the onslaught below.
Opening track ‘From Dust’ showcases this twisted melody well. There are haunting guitar lines that seems to float above the heaviness. The song strikes a somewhat melancholic tone that showcases ‘From Dust’ as a sublime opener.
From the cinematic opener, comes the second track ‘Reliquary’ which holds nothing back. From the beginning the song is the definition of pummelling. Guitars and bass forgo the complexity of their strings to become rhythmic extensions of the tribalistic drums hammering away. The guttural vocals also coalesce with the instruments to deliver a wall of misery (in the best possible way). With a runtime of around 13 minutes, there is plenty of nuance in between the chaos.
The shortest song on Penance is ‘From Dust’ at 7 minutes 23 seconds. The long runtime of songs isn’t just in keeping with the doom mould, but rather the songs building organically. The repetitions don’t feel forced or overplayed, in fact, when the whole album is finished, there is a sense of loss.
Penance is an album that will devour you, take you on a journey, and then spit you back out, but even after the existential despair it invokes, the listener will constantly want to embark on that journey again and again.