I try to listen to as much music as I can. No matter how well versed you become in a genre - or rather, how well versed you think you are - there's always more. There are constant surprises and new directions to explore. As the year winds down in December, I find myself pondering what the tone of the year as a whole has been for me, in terms of my listening. One genre which sticks out for me is Funeral Doom - I entered January knowing little besides Ahab, and as the months have passed, I've done my best to take more and more on-board, both of death-doom and funeral doom. I bring this up because I hope I'm now sufficiently equipped with background knowledge to review a funeral doom record coherently. The one I have in mind is the self-titled début by United States band Mesmur.
I open by saying that Mesmur do what a funeral-doom band ought to do. This becomes immediately apparent as the listeners find themselves engulfed in mournful, wailing lead-guitar and thick, crushing rhythm, united with clear but thoroughly appropriate production, erasing any worries of the record having the "shaky start" that some débuts do. It is, to state the obvious, both funereal, and doomy - and at that, very well executed. The record is a thorough manifestation of what makes the genre good. It is sorrowful with sincerity, but also otherworldly; it lifts you out of yourself with sonic vastness. The combination of percussive intensity with rolling, reeling riffs creates in the listener the mindset of being underwater - a surreal, sepia reality incongruent with the trappings of the mundane. Emotional content is heightened with evocative lead-work and tastefully restrained keys, which do absolute justice to the record's vision, opposed to being some sort of unwelcome visitor. The juxtaposed claustrophobia and vastness of early Ahab colliding headlong with the emotional depth and heart-rending melancholy and majesty of Evoken, if that gives any kind of comparison. The song-writing skill showcased throughout the album's labyrinthine catacombs of sound is impressive, and delivers immediate enjoyment as the songs progress, much in the way one enjoys beholding a well-crafted object of any sort.
In a genre of monstrously long records and double-albums, at only 52 minutes, Mesmur's début is a short but sweet affair compared to some. Nonetheless, it feels whole and complete; not a tentative toe dipped into murky waters, but a fully formed realization of vision. It's over before you expect it to be, perhaps, but it does not feel stunted or withered as a work. The creative integrity which shines through in the production, musicianship and song-writing makes it an immediately appealing record. The feel - in terms of atmosphere and immediate musical gratification - of the record is sublime. The melodies themselves aren't always immediately accessible, but not in a sense of them lacking anything - the music is simply quite intricate. There is out-of-the-box thinking afoot, and the record becomes a densely populated, difficult to fathom affair compared to something more simplistic; I realised after several listens that I had been basking in the atmosphere, but still wasn't certain where specific songs began, or ended. The music delivered is music which you feel more than music for you to know. While I listen to the record, its quality speaks volumes, even if I can't fully remember after several listens. I don't see this as a problem, however. The album absorbs you, like a vision, keeping you for 52 minutes - it exists as a whole in my mind, and while each part is definitely itself a superb track, the five united are how the album presented itself to me foremost, and I would suggest that that is how it is best digested.
Mesmur's self-titled is a very strong first appearance by the band - a record which truly embodies the genre it stands-for, delivering what you'd expect, and what you'd want - but more importantly, delivering it well. Very well indeed. At the time of me writing this, there isn't a particularly tangible amount of attention being paid to the band. It won't be long, however, until the metal community encircle this gem, and give it the appreciation it is almost certainly due.
This is an 8/10.
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