It’s not every day you get to listen to an Indian band’s doom metal concept album about the downfall of post-European contact Mesoamerican civilization.
Dirge’s album, Ah Puch, named after the Mayan god of death who takes a central role in the album’s story, comes out on October 19, 2018, as an independent release from the band. After having been active for four years, this is the group’s first full-length effort, and the time spent polishing up their sound has definitely paid off, as they have come crashing in with a strong debut release.
Dirge’s sound is colored by a large mix of sludgy grit with slow and low fuzzy guitars layering bluesy weight over tribal drumming, as seen best in “Swamp of Blood.”
“The Dilemma” showcases the band’s YOB and Pallbearer influences with a somber, clean, and reverb-laden guitar interlude, which is definitely more my speed.
It’s worth noting that Dirge’s take on doom metal is the kind exclusively with harsh howls and screams, though the instrumental parts often take queues from a variety of styles. Unfortunately, vocalist Tabish Khidir is done a bit of a disservice, as the vocal recordings are fairly wet and tinny, sticking out slightly compared to the darker-colored instrumental recordings. The mixing and mastering have definitely helped a lot, though, and the instrumental arrangement and performance helps even out any issues with the vocal recordings.
“Corpse of Cortez” has a High on Fire-esque chugging drive and energy to it, and if it doesn’t get you banging your head you’ll at least be tapping your toe. About halfway through the song, the band shows their love for the low and slow sludgy side of things before delving back into the somber style shown on “The Dilemma.” This song is definitely a highlight of the record, with smooth transitions between a large variety of moods and styles and some great textures and harmonies. It’s a fitting end to the album and a reminder of why I’m so drawn to doom metal.
The doom, the grief, the weight of it all, marching along at a snail pace as it slowly drags you down further and further. Here, at the end of the whole album, the excessively lo-fi recordings of Tabish’s vocals do a service to the band as his wordless wails crackle and distort into otherworldly fuzz.
Dirge has made a very strong full-length debut offering, though the one stand-out track ended up being the final one on the record. Despite this, the group shows a ton of promise, and I’m excited to see what they can accomplish in the future.