Album Title: 
Release Date: 
Friday, August 16, 2013
Review Type: 

Merkstave are a new Oregon-based act with experienced members (formerly or currently active in e.g. Velnias, Oak, Leech, Mania, Hell etc.). There were two demos in the recent past (which seemed to escape from my attention, and I am oh so sad about this), but this self-called debut full length will lift this band to the top of the Funeral-oriented Doom-scene. At least, I will help to do so, even though this review deals with a very limited vinyl-edition.

Anyway, the music. The album consists of three tracks, which have duration of respectively 20:40, 8:49 and 14:33 minutes. It might give you a clue, but not completely. The self-called album opens with Lament For Lost Gods Pt. 1. This track opens rather sober, with a simple semi-electric guitar tune. After two minutes it gets accompanied by limited and primal percussion and rare riffing, which makes my mind transcend into spheres comparable to the likes of Until Death Undertakes Me and Beyond Black Void. When, after almost four minutes, the whole intensifies with heavier riffing, still of the slowest kind, and deep black-grunting (no black-screams or death-grunts; beware of the important difference!), the reference to both higher mentioned projects by Stijn Van Cauter (and some other projects he’s involved with) gets strengthened. Probably it might sound little more noisy, sludgy and droning, but that has to do with the low-inch production (which is, honestly, below average - a pity, a shame for sure!). Close to the half of the first song, there’s a sudden, and pretty short but icy and grim speed-acceleration, minifying the border with the Funereal Black Metal scene enormously (including blackish screams this time). It brings Unearthly Trance’s Season Of Séance, Science Of Silence to mind. The end of this song is rather noisy and apocalyptic. Lament For Lost Gods Pt. 2 opens, like the first song, with a primal, minimal melody, less sober but more sombre. The heavier riffs that fall in after two minutes are closely related to abyssal Funeral Doom-Death Epic, and this certainly goes for the melodic ‘leads’ - a hint of Evoken might appear?... But anyway, the whole keeps maintaining simplistic and minimalistic integrity. The third and final epic, finally, called Spawn Of A Lower Star, indeed starts with a comparable introduction, easy and down-tuned guitar pickings, before turning into a monster of ultra-heaviness. It’s again an aural definition of monolithic Music(k). It’s the most ‘melodic’ track on the album, for it has some melodious intermezzos, riffs and leads. The song, finally, comes with a sober grande finale with piano, by the way.

I mentioned the inferior production before, and it does influence my opinion about this album. I do appreciate this specific genre, and Merkstave for sure are a superior act, but with a more decent sound, this nameless debut could have gained a higher score, for what it’s worth…