Beneath Oblivion mete out muddy beatings on ‘From Man to Dust’

I’ve never been hit by a truck. My wife has, actually. She’s a warrior who will destroy you. Perhaps she should be writing this piece and not me. But I’d imagine if ever that fate would come upon me, it might remind me just a bit of what it’s been like tackling the sophomore effort “From Man to Dust” from doom sludgers Beneath Oblivion. It’s destructive and flattening and does a large amount of damage to your psyche. Luckily you can’t have a physical encounter with the thing because the results would be poor. For you. Certainly not for the band.

The Cincinnati-based band hasn’t gotten to us with a full-length effort since their 2006 debut “Existence Without Purpose,” though they’ve made good with some split and mini efforts since that time (including their contribution alongside Angel Eyes earlier this year), but the wait certainly was worth it because of how cataclysmic and sometimes utterly terrifying this album sounds. It’s a 75-minute tour-de-force that manages to stay fresh despite the marathon running time and the epic tracks. Not all bands can pull off a record this lengthy and do it this well. But you’re not getting drubbed about the head and torso by the same sound the whole time, and there’s enough variety in the music to keep the collection fresh and exciting.

Beneath Oblivion’s lineup has shuffled some since the band’s first album. Scotty T. Simpson is the only remaining original member, as he handles guitar and the gargantuan vocals, and drummer Nate Bidwell, who’s been around since 2006, is still behind the kit. Guitarist/sample expert Allen Scott II joined up in 2009, and bassist Keith Messerle has been around for about a year, so we’re talking half a new band from their “Existence Without Purpose” days, and you can hear some of those new personalities in the music. If those lineup shuffles make you nervous, worry not, because Simpson’s talents have helped make this band special from the beginning (and that’s not to take way from what the rest of the members do), and every time he opens his mouth to deliver a tortured diatribe, it makes you sit up immediately and take notice. I’ve heard a ton of singers over the years who chill my blood, and he’s up there pretty high on the list. Even their producer, doom legend Billy Anderson, reportedly has said as much.

You might think you’re in for something light or merely stage-setting with the first track “Intro,” but that would be a mistake. It’s a seven-minute crusher of slow-driving doom and animalistic squeals, in the midst of which Simpson growls, “There is nothing left to live for.” Well, I guess maybe it does prepare you emotionally for what’s left. It also bleeds directly into “Atomic Mother,” a lurching, monstrous song that has Apocalyptic leanings and eventually dialog stretched over the chaos that is either a prayer or a Biblical reading. “Hope, the Deceiver” goes more down-tuned musically, as it gulps mouthfuls of mud, and Simpson’s vocals sound anguished, but eventually some acoustic passages blend in and allow air into the room. Things change up on “Barren Earth,” an emotional, caterwauling number that begins like a ballad before barreling into a sonic pit of hell. “Be My  Destroyer” also goes for atmosphere, with more acoustic guitar work and cleaner, deeper vocals from Simpson. It also goes for a mid-tempo, reflective pace, reminding me of Cobalt when they’re not burning things to the ground, but it, too, explodes into chaos before it’s done. The closing title track brings everything back around again, simmering in volume, tar and drubbing, as it spreads itself maniacally over its nearly 20-minute running time. You’ll be out of breath when the track finally reaches its end, finally giving you some mercy.

Beneath Oblivion, with new lineup intact and a volcanic second album, sound primed to take the admittedly oversaturated doom world by storm. I listen to a lot of this stuff both for pleasure and for work, and it’s nice when one of these bands sticks in your head. This band has done that for me over the years, and “From Man to Dust” is going to remain in listening rotation for some time to come. That’ll explain my black eyes.

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