PICK OF THE WEEK: Drown imagine immersion in water as traumatic metaphor on dark ‘Subaqueous’

Photo by Lillian Liu

I went white water rafting once. Once. I already didn’t like water a hell of a lot, at least not natural bodies that could have their way with me, and my nerves during said excursion are likely what led me to fall off the raft, briefly get my leg caught on a rock, and think I was never going to see the surface again. Let’s not even get into my anxiety outside of that.

The Marvok Soroka-driven project Drown used that name because the music under this banner follows a protagonist as the person slowly becomes submerged—not necessarily literally—and feels the great pressure as the lungs take on water. So, on the second Drown album “Subaqueous,” it’s not that you’re hearing a tale about a person slowly dying under water; it’s about someone facing grief and depression, finding the earth slowly sinking beneath the crust, and the idea of control or solace being the furthest thing from the mind. Musically, you’re overcome by true aquatic doom, as the blackness of the sea surrounds you, sometimes feeling like a picture of beauty, at others creating a scene that sparks claustrophobia and panic and you struggle against yourself to reach the surface. It’s been six long years since we got the first chapter of this tale (2014’s “Unsleep”) from Soroka ( also of Tchornobog and Aureole), and it stills feel like the weight of an entire ocean sits on top of us.

“VI: Mother Cetacean” opens the record and runs a healthy 20:52 yet isn’t the longest song of the pair. Waves rush in and flood as guitars drip and a heavy doom curtain falls, enveloping everything in shadows. Riffs melt stone, and the emotional playing tears at the guts, with Soroka’s deep lurching growls sending shocks through your system. The sea’s utter blackness and hopelessness are never more apparent as the track floats into solitary fear, floating into cavernous noise and music that feels like it’s efforting to stay above water. Wild wails curse as the track tears forward at a calculated clip, as guitars trickle lightly, draining off into the void that swallowed whole by sorrowful strings and echoing that sound like you’re succumbing to the beyond.

“VII: Father Subaqueous” is the final track and the mammoth cut at 21:04. Again, the waters overwhelm as sadness feels like it comes from the depths and utterly claims you. The vocals wrench as clean playing arrives like a steady drizzle, soaking clothing and adding to the misery, and then Soroka’s lurching growls return and consume before lights wash over again. That leads into a vast expanse that brings in a deathrock vibe before the song reopens and wails away. The leads catch fire, and the emotion crushes before the guitars turn the screws again, and the tempo brings added pressure. A warm haze hovers overhead as the string bed returns and brings a haunting elegance, while the music crescendos heavily, the music moans, and the playing bows out at sea.

It’s easy to feel lost, hopelessly sinking, and out of control when grief and depression take hold, and only someone who has faced these things could possibly understand the pain involved. Drown’s “Subaqueous” is a trip into that world, only instead of just feeling pressure from a mental state, it’s from being swallowed whole by a massive, unmoving body of water over which you have no control. The misery and chaos are real, and perhaps the only way out is to become one with that very watery burial ground into which you’re forever submerged.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Drowndoom

To buy the album, go here: https://prophecy.lnk.to/drown-subaqueous

For more on the label, go here: https://en.prophecy.de/

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