Qaalm’s funeral doom plunges in personal torment, emotions, hope on ‘Resilience and Despair’

A storm brewing inside oneself can be impossible to battle or even from which to find shelter, and that’s a terrifying predicament for anyone who has experienced such things. I’d imagine that’s most people, and from a personal standpoint, there are some things even therapy and medicine cannot help quell. Finding solutions and strength inside yourself can be key, and that can lead to some healing.

Diving headlong into “Resilience and Despair,” the first long player from Qaalm, brings all that to the forefront, confronting the chaos and pain that knows no true antidote. Over four tracks and 70 minutes, the band—vocalist Pete Majors, guitarists/backing vocalists Henry Derek Elis and Brock Elmore, bassist David Huet, drummer Dave Ferrara—uses primarily funeral doom as a base, but that’s not all that’s going on here. Yes, the tempo is achingly deliberate, the punishment allowed to sink into your bones, but even amid all of the depression, disgust with humanity, and all the torment present, there does appear beacons of hope that remind not all is lost. The fight is worth it, and if you arm yourself with the right tools, you can survive. By the way, the band was enhanced by studio musicians Steve White (drums, keys) and Kakophonix (cello), critical pieces for making this behemoth work.

“Reflections Doubt” is the 14:42-long opener, and it dawns with keys blurring and the track slowly rumbling, finally breaking open with snarling growls. Doom swaggers dangerously, clean calls haunt, and the playing trudges openly, the shrieks returning and peeling paint from the walls. Guitars trickle into a fog, steam rises, and growls and clean singing combine and make things feel gothy. Somber waters collect, the easy/harsh combination gets thicker, and things speed up, ending in a pile of ash. “Existence Asunder” is the longest track at 19:35, beginning with water dripping and a thick haze collecting, the doom melting and mauling. The track begins to lurch slowly, gnarly howls stretch, and a torturous pace touches down, stomping and flowing into sheen. The playing chugs, guitars bleed in the heat, and the vocals tear a hole in your organs, bringing psychedelic guitars and vicious churning that taps you out.

“Cosmic Descent” is a healthy 18:23, and is starts cleanly with strings sneaking in, a somber mashing taking control. Growls gurgle as things are bruising and crazed but also quite calculated. Mystical waters flow into spine-crunching doom, a spacey trickle adds stars, and the heat increases along with the emotion. Waters go from boiling hot to nearly frozen, a dream-like sequence gets inside your head, and a hypnotic rage stabs an exclamation point at the end of the track. Closer “Lurking Death” runs 16:16, and it mashes strings, fog, and clean singing, making your brain tingle. Shrieks gut as the playing gets devious, the leads bleed, and somber guitars wash into thick smoke and oppressive nastiness. The guitars then begin to saunter, mists rise, and the growls bleed, mowing into lurching growls. The mystical presence increases, the band crushes slowly but surely, and total darkness folds as the devastating shrieks cut paths into your soul.

The heaviness is both musical and emotional when it comes to Qaalm and their devastating debut “Resilience and Despair,” a record that obviously wasn’t named by accident. The sorrow and punishment combined in these songs transcend the art and get into your central nervous system, totally rewiring you. This is a record that’s even weightier due to the human element involved, the hell and torture so many of us face every day, our pool of unknown strength the only thing really getting us through.

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