‘Year Naught Doom.’ It’s not so much an album title as a somewhat arrogant statement of intent.
With their 2008 demo, Mayo doomsters On Pain of Death set out a stall of Electric Wizard informed Doom / Death. It was a good release, but you felt they had a lot more filth to offer.
Four years and one scrapped EP down the line, we finally get an album’s worth of rotten meat to chew on and, if anything, things have only become worse out West.
Slower, uglier and with a tighter rein on the grooves, this three tracker is a short and nasty hunk of doom.
The Doom / Death aspect has been amplified here but there is still a lingering hallucinatory hangover buried under the dying riff-work. Rather than washing the whole thing out in swirling effects, they are used more sparsely to add a near-subliminal sense of dread and paranoia.
It still grooves, it’s just that there is a disjointed aspect to the flow, as if each riff was assembled and subsequently had its limbs pulled from their sockets.
The playing is nice and tight across the board, with Olly’s busy drumming adding extra shades of black and preventing paralysis from setting in. There is a peculiar tone to the cymbals whose peals chime through the music and add a deeply unsettling quality that will have your nerves ragged.
The compositions’ stop/start approach offers space for the vocals to bubble up, and it’s those vocals that are the band’s trump card. Nasty layers of gargled vileness, they drag the whole thing down into an Autopsy swamp.
Wet and slimy snarls, possessed lung-sucking howls and belched bottomless-well growls weave their sticky, malignant magic through every song.
Opener, ‘Year Naught Doom’, clangs to life with an open-chord riff that soon gives way to a sequence that manages to simultaneously offer bounce and morbidity. The vocals are piled heavy to make sure our heads are properly submerged in their filth.
The groove is then abruptly killed by a glacial vacuum that sucks out any trace of light or vitality; think first album Khanate with a helping of Esoteric.
The boys also know how to rock it up without losing any of the menace, the second half of ‘Tell Your God to Ready for Blood’ adding a somewhat pounding aspect to the otherwise sluggish composition.
Simplistic, juddering and aided by a suitably dead and buried growl it teases us with a nice bit of momentum before the rug is pulled out from beneath our feet and the song crawls to its demise.
Album closer, the amusingly titled ‘It Came from the Bog’, manages to combine all of the elements found across the other two tracks as it gradually builds from a painfully slow opening section into one of the strongest riffs on the album.
It sounds like an incensed god mercilessly pulping the brains and bones of some wayward sinner. Such a pounding apocalypse – it dies out with a sample of a wretch desperately pleading that the filth won’t come off. How appropriate.
The production is well considered, too. The obvious choice would have been to just go for a wall of distortion and bass and top the lot off with feedback but let’s be honest, that has been more or less done to death.
Instead we get a recording that is indeed heavy in all the right ways but actually has a nice sense of space, offering clarity without dampening the filth.
If anything the clarity somehow adds to the filth, and gives the album a breathing, living quality, or more accurately it allows us to fully experience the process of decay in all its grotesque splendour.
What’s more, it shows that while On Pain of Death have a defined and full sound there is still room for maneuver in the future.
The artwork really sums up the experience with one of Harry Clarke’s more cadaverous decompositions taking centre stage. This is going to look incredible on vinyl.
‘Year Naught Doom’ is a highly respectable addition to our ever-expanding Doom scene.
While it may not exactly revolutionize the genre, suddenly the album title doesn’t seem quite so arrogant after all.
3.9/5 – Andrew Cunningham ::: 10/08/12