PICK OF THE WEEK: Emotional toll levied by Downfall of Gaia with mauling ‘Silhouettes of Disgust’

Photo by David Stoecklin

Every day is a battle it seems. There are so many things circulating in our lives that have an impact on who we are and our path and the way we interact, that trying to make sense of it all and make progress toward our difficulties can crush us. That story is the same with everyone, whether we’re good, bad, or something in between, there comes a time for all of us when the pressure seems too much.

“Silhouettes of Disgust,” the sixth album from German crushers Downfall of Gaia, tackles these very issues in a concept piece comprised of eight songs about eight different characters. The issues are universal and common such as pain, loss, loneliness, addiction, societal and work pressure, and many others weaving the tales of the people who live in a fictional metropolis. The band—vocalist/guitarist Dominik Goncalves dos Reis, guitarist/vocalist Peter Wolff, bassist/vocalist Anton Lisovoj, drummer Michael Kadnar—weaves atmospheric black metal, sludge, and plenty of other volatile elements into this record that’s one of their most imaginable and easy to mentally invest.

“Existence of Awe” ruptures and cascades, howls wrenching and leading toward anguish, driving the drama before things become even tempered. Wild cries rain down with somber waves and abject heaviness, guest vocalist Lulu Black’s singing adding to the thick shadows and disappearing into the mists. “The Whir of Flies” starts off feeling properly mechanical as the gears tighten, wrenching chaos following as vicious howls devastate and lead you into a brief bout of serenity. The playing gets moody and spacey as the fog thickens, and the chaos blasts out of that, raspy yells leave welts on flesh, and the finish feels like your psyche being locked into a vice. “While Bloodsprings Become Rivers” begins with the drums erupting, lurching growls meeting with the spiraling playing, guitars enveloping everything. The attack rumbles the earth as the pace rushes harder, feeling active and throttling. Somber gazing takes over, pushing the melodies into the sky, pulsating with alien blood. “Bodies as Driftwood” has a post-metal ambiance as it starts, liquified playing melting, and then the track is shredded, bringing violent storms. The tempo is pulled from cool serenity to volcanic misery, the playing ramps up, and the crushing madness becomes a major factor, flowing away toward the horizon.

“Eyes to Burning Skies” is eerie and haunting, Black’s singing adding to the coldness that makes your flesh ice over. The ominous darkness unloads, feeling both thrashing and gazey, jabbing at your ribs. Trudging playing goes into spacious skies before the track ruptures anew, raging and letting fires crush until they fade away. “Final Vows” will make you think whatever device on which you’re listening is shorting out the first time you hear it. I definitely was fooled by the start/stop that stutters over the beginning, and then the punches are thrown as shrieks and growls wrestle for control, melodic fury increasing the barometric pressure. Shrieks instill fear until a strange aura arrives, melting your mental capacities as strange noises slip into space.  “Unredeemable” drills in, letting the energy wash over everything, and then things kick into high gear. The track goes from punishing to soothing over the course of the track, the guitars liquifying into a silver river. The punishment returns as the shadows thicken, causing your anxiety to spike as everything burns off. Closer “Optograms of Disgust” lets the steam rise as guitars hang in the air, and disorientation turns up the volume. Crazed shrieks belt and leave welts behind, and the pace drops the hammer, whirring synth making you question your security. The track returns to being a crushing force, melodies flood and smash, and everything suddenly fades, soaring off into the clouds.

Downfall of Gaia always have been an inventive and thought-provoking band, yet “Silhouettes of Disgust” takes that even further than before. These eight tracks, and the characters and plights woven into them, are not alien concepts to most of us as we face our own struggles and battles, looking for ways to just stay above water. This is volcanic, emotional, and dreamy, an experience that aligns with our chaotic world and tries to find sense within the carnage.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.indiemerch.com/metalbladerecords

For more on the label, go here: https://www.metalblade.com/us/