Asva What You Don’t Know Is Frontier

[Southern; 2008]

Styles: doom metal, horror movie climax moments, classical
Others: Earth, Sunn O)))

To the untrained ear, doom metal may seem nothing more than some fartin’ around on instruments. Most tracks take forever to climax, often taking several minutes to develop any flesh and bone beyond a steady drone or slowly timed thud. True to form, Asva’s second album, What You Don’t Know Is Frontier (WYDKIF), takes the basic tenets from the canon of doom and creates a beautiful vision of grief and remorse. This is some absolutely serious and grand music, as poignant and meaningful as the most crucial moments of The Wall, Stockhausen’s work, or the film soundtrack music performed by Goblin.

Written as a memorial to the brother of Asva’s central figure, Stuart Dahlquist (bass, guitars), WYDKIF will please the ears of those who have learned the patience and flexibility that fine doom requires of its listeners. Dahlquists’s attempts to capture the pain of his loss could not have taken a more apropos medium, and the landscape of his vision is huge, open, and full of catastrophe.

The album’s motifs are expressed through grandiose and epic gestures, from heavy organ drones to symphonic arrangements that create severe weather and huge, open spaces filled with lumbering beasts. Pendulous crunches and dense groaning pulse and weave their way through the crest of this manuscript. The drums and cymbals flash, twist, coil and strike like solid silver rattlesnakes hunting winged golden rats on an astral plane. Indeed, in a remarkable moment 12 minutes into track three, a cacophonous sphincter, leeching the blackest tree-felling rumbles from a tensely held guitar, breaks forth with a rapid and galloping four-count beat, creating a ridgetop to the huge range of emotion with which this music is fortified. The dénouement, an organ solo that ebbs like a retreating wave, helps take us down after having been tossed about in the undertow. You won’t choke on this album, but you might need mouth-to-mouth.

For doom metal novices, this may not be the best introduction. However, if you possess a patient ear and basic tolerance for simply composed music that is deep and heavy, then listening closely will reveal something much more than monotony. There is a reverence for gorgeous melody that underpins the horrific bleakness of this album that could be the perfect accompaniment to your stoic contemplation, grief, or hangovers.

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