Monday, December 26, 2011
Dalit - Dalit (2009)
Very few bands can truly embrace both real melodic sensibility and oppressive atmosphere and heaviness at the same time. Usually, a fair degree of either element is sacrificed in favor of the other. Bands that are oppressively dark and heavy usually focus less on the melodic side of things, while bands focusing on melody usually lose some of the aggression or heavier atmosphere in the process. When a band can combine both elements successfully, the results can be quite a treat. That's not to say that the combination must represent the pinnacle of melodicism while also representing the pinnacle of oppressive atmosphere and heaviness. That would be too much to ask, even for masters of the craft. But certainly striking a balance between the two elements while both still being present and evident in the mix is an achievement unto itself.
Dalit accomplish this balance with their eponymous debut. The band plays a melodic form of extreme doom metal, much in the same vein as early material by doom stalwarts My Dying Bride, or at times like the heavier material of My Silent Wake from the UK. Dalit are not mere clones, however: their style is familiar, but the band has their own take on the doom metal atmosphere and heaviness. It's difficult to label specifically, other than to say it follows the conventions of other doom bands that go for a sound less influenced by traditional doom bands like St. Vitus and Candlemass, and more influenced by the gothic doom sounds of early Paradise Lost. Either way, Dalit creates a solid atmosphere peppered with melodic lines and interesting things going on, even within the somewhat purposefully minimalist constructs of doom metal.
What is easy to pin-point is that the band is already adept at making highly listenable yet heavy doom metal. Guitars ring out here with style, crunching with low-end heaviness when they need to, and singing forth in glorious high notes and harmonic resonance at other times. The layered guitar sounds work well, with underlying riffs powering the songs while melodic lines are played atop that base to great effect. In several spots there are also clean guitar sounds that complement the distorted guitar sound well. Bass guitar rumbles nicely underneath - not flashy, but competent and on-point. Drum work is mixed interestingly here: bass drum sounds thump underneath and cymbals crash and ring nicely, though a bit low in the mix at times. Snare sounds good, though not too punchy. Vocals sit in the mix at a nice spot - not too loud to overpower the instrumentation, but not so low in the mix that they can't be heard or understood. Vocalizations are generally in the "death growl" space, though there are a few clean female vocals here and there which sound great. They're not the over-done sub-standard female gothic vocals either; they have a bit more personality than you might think. There are a couple spoken word voice samples used on the album as well, which is a nice touch. "Silent Genocide" also includes a distorted vocal sound which also sounds cool over the music.
I took this CD with me on a business trip out of town and literally spun the thing constantly the entire week. I would guess I probably listened to the CD all the way through while in and out of the car some 30-40 times during the course of that week. I never got tired of it, either as background music, or as something I was intently listening to. I have since plugged it into my car stereo or at the office for listens on repeat and it works well as music that can be easily engaged in, but also serves as excellent background music. This is a nice touch as well, because some music demands 100% of your attention, and some is content to play as a soundtrack to your life. This falls somewhere in between and is quite capable of being in either space.
What's not to like? At first blush, I was disappointed that this wasn't more crushingly heavy. I wanted something to pummel me over the head like Paramaecium's debut "Exhumed From the Earth" did. But then that was an entirely different animal - a doomy death metal band versus this straight up heavier doom metal. Having softened on that initial viewpoint, my main concerns now are that the drums are mixed a bit too low. Given that the album is released on Endtime Productions via Sam Durling (mastermind of percussive industrial entity Mental Destruction) to mix the drums that low is a bit of a mystery, considering the bread and butter of his own former project was percussion. In some ways I wish the album, though it works well as just under 40 minutes. At that length, this is just screaming for a vinyl issue. There was supposed to have been a Dalit 7" release, but to my knowledge it has never materialized. This would be a treat to own and hear on vinyl, as the overall warmth of the album (curious, given it's chosen genre) would benefit nicely from this format. As it stands, it's available in 2 CD flavors: the standard jewel case version, and a digipak with alternate artwork. If you're a fan of deathy doom metal, this is an album you likely already know about or have in your collection. If not, this probably isn't the best place to start, but you can certainly do a lot worse than Dalit, and this fine debut shows the band already skilled enough to make their mark. Recommended.