Voronezh, about 200 kilometres North-East from the border with Ukraine, is a city with a vivid (Extreme) Metal scene. Sterbefall, Effluo, Ravencry, Memorial (nowadays active as NorthZyklon), Skyfall, and so on – for several of them I did write a review in the past. It’s home too for Suffer In Paradise. This band was formed at the very end of last decade, but with exception of the recording of a demo, and probably some local gigs, nothing adventurous happened. Soon the band split up. But in 2014, original members Aleksey ‘A.V. Grievous’ Gagarin and Sergey ‘D. Akron’ Florin decided to reform the band. They were joined by bass player R. Pickman, and together they recorded and released This Dead Is World, their official debut full length studio album, which saw the light via Endless Winter, one of the most impressive Doom-laden labels from Russian soil.
About one year and a half after that first release, the very same label kindly offers us, dearest audience, the sophomore full length album, which is called Ephemere. This time joined by a fourth musician too, being guitar player Z.T.S. (serenades to the dead), the trio A.V. Grievous (bitter laments), D. Akron (keys to Purgatory) and R. Pickman (tragic lutes) became a quartet. They recorded some new material (and stuff that was written before as well, by the way, but not decently recorded yet) in the Pickmaland Studio (owned by R. Pickman, who took care of the final mix and mastering, as The Mighty Drunk Sonic Wizard) and at the studio Grampa’s Lair during the first months of 2017. The result is a collection of six lengthy compositions (nine to twelve minutes of duration) and a short outro (with piano and fine percussions). The CD comes in an edition of 300 copies, including an eight-page booklet, which contains the lyrics (in English) and quite sober yet expressive visual artwork.
The album totally, deeply, convincingly overwhelms as from the first song, which is the title track. This is Doom with capital ‘D’! …And Funeral Doom with capital ‘FUNERALDOOM’! Despite lacking any form of originality (but I will repeat what I say a lot: f*ck originality, as long as the final quality is beyond expectation – here it is the case once again, so ignore the lack of being renewing – Ivan), I have been impressed each time when I listened to that opening composition (as well as the others, by the way). It has all ingredients that are necessary, and those ones are just perfectly balanced, presented and performed: ultra-heavy guitar and bass riffs, melancholic acoustic guitars, pounding drum patterns, ultra-deep growls, hypnotic keyboards / lots of variety in structure and speed / a sound so full and monumental / and song writing that reeks of suffering, desolation, depression and emptiness. Let’s go somewhat deeper into each of those details.
-) the atmosphere is truly oppressing, depressing and cold. There’s a suffocating smog being created, a poisonous mist that asphyxiates. Every remnant of joy or happiness has been banned; the only pleasure is that masochistic feeling of loneliness, loss, sadness, mental illness and suicidal longing. Within the more melancholic excerpts, rather than the angry ones, self-pity prevails; the harsher parts are like an expression of frenzy and madness. But in all cases, the keyword is like any definition that means the opposite of happiness. The sound quality strengthens these feelings.
-) that production indeed is focusing on negativity and man’s disgusting existence. All instruments are nicely balanced, yet with quite a raw, unpolished, even swampy sound mix. Electric and acoustic guitars and the synth lines are put on the foreground, yet the whole rhythmic instrumental session remains important, permanently pushing and hammering. It represents the human kind, waiting for the end, without knowing that the end is near…
-) speed-wise the whole album differs from extremely slow to even slower. Doomy parts are injected by other decelerations. But Suffer In Paradise succeed to grab the listener’s attention the whole of the time, partly because of the subtle changes in melody, as well as via the many levels and permanently evolving structures of the hymns. Each time when dissecting the album, new elements seem to get born, being brought in a perfected symbiosis. For sure it sounds enormously organic – no forced or trendy intermezzi allowed – and that’s (another) surplus. And once, only one in a while, there is something like an acceleration, angry and malignant, devastating and merciless – cf. the semi-outbursts at the end of The Wheels Of Fate, for example.
-) and about the instrumentation I can go quite deep into the matter, but just float away by the grandiose interplay of all those elements, smoothly canalised into a natural elegance, lake thousand voices turning to a one-vocal choir…
It would be too easy to dissect each single chapter (no, actually, it would not at all, to be honest), but let the Music(k) speak for itself. I’ve always thought that the Russian Funeral Doom scene is one of the best, and Suffer In Paradise are another proof that I am (always) right. Ephemere makes me smile and weep at once, and that’s what Funeral Doom Metal is supposed to do, supposed to be, supposed to achieve.