(Season of Mist)
Some bands offer up stunning musicianship, others are impeccable songwriters. A select few grant the listener an experience, and Australia’s Départe fall into the latter category. And boy is their debut a uniquely wonderful experience. Failure, Subside, showcases a band with a very curious sound. It’s atmospheric, haunting, purposefully drawn out, yet it’s also devastatingly heavy and dissonant when it decides it wants to be. Plus, there are really well done clean vocals. In an extreme metal record. And they may be the best part of the whole package. Needless to say, Départe have something special here.
Their sound falls somewhere between Altar of Plagues and Ulcerate, with extended sections of almost Gothic calm contradicting mercilessly with blast beat driven dissonance. The band clearly love playing around with light and darkness, and they are masterful in their use of dynamics. You’ll be drawn to play the game of spot-the-influence at times, but Départe really are their own thing. Just because there are clean vocals and atmospheric black metal doesn’t mean this is in the same vein as Deafheaven, though both groups are now notable for crafting particularly artistic strains of extreme metal.
Playing up the experience factor, everything about Failure, Subside feels rather oppressive in its intensity. The melody (vocal or instrumental) isn’t there to bring peace, rather to shine a light on the darkness. The lyrics contain many Christian phrases and Biblical passages, giving the music the feeling of a prayer at death’s door, one in which the band is reflecting on all the evil they’ve wrought in this world and is begging for forgiveness while knowing it may be too late. That all sounds grim, but the haunting nature of the lyrics really adds some more depth to Départe’s underground cave system of a sound. The record explores grief, isolation, and loss, and while not every word is clear, this is probably the perfect record to incite terror while lost in the woods and alone. A lot of credit goes to Sam Dishington’s impressive and varied vocal performance. His range is perfect to convey all the valleys and deeper valleys in Départe’s sound, and it’s good to hear him back at it after releasing great work with Separatist.
Expectedly, all this means that the record can feel a bit much when taken in, and it’s definitely one of those “mood albums”. I’m not going to put this record on while cooking dinner or watching my nephew (maybe I would, but you might judge me), yet it’s immersive nature does certainly warrant repeat listens. While the band’s compositions feel sparse, there are certainly hidden depths that come alive after multiple spins. That little nitpick aside, Départe have truly come out of the gates with something special. Failure, Subside is a captivating listen, and hopefully the band are just getting started crafting post-metal near-masterpieces. Whether this is better than fellow countrymen (and metal giants) Ulcerate’s new record may be up to your preference in style, but the fact that a new band can release a debut worthy of such a comparison is a huge feat.