By Earthdog

When it comes to impatient expectancy for an album, 'Despond' by Loss has to be right up there. After 7 years together as a band, this funeral-doom act have finally released their début full-length album after a succession of demos and split-album releases and the wait has been worth the pain. Speaking of pain and despair, this album is one of the most gloomy, depressing albums released in some time.

If the sounds of Mournful Congregation are your cup of funeral-tea, then this album will have you reaching for the switch blade pretty quickly. This crushing example of funeral doom leaves you with an overwhelming feeling of miserable dejection but it is so mesmerizing, you can't turn it off. Simply put - this album is an excellent moment in the history of funeral-doom. Of course, it is slow and ponderous and crushingly heavy but it is also beautifully structured. Their uncompromising approach to the funeral/death-doom art is something that few albums released this year can come close to in terms of grimness. The distorted guitar-tone is one of the finest recorded in recent times and it is capped off with stunning bass work and extremely deep growls in the vein of Thergothon and that is the icing on the cake here. Unlike other funeral-doom acts, there is hardly anything on this album that you could call melodic. There are little signs of the melancholic, the emphasis here on a wall of crushing guitar and minimalist ambient passages that are constantly being varied throughout the album.

With really long funeral doom albums, there are very few bands able to make an album compelling enough to want to sit through 60 plus minutes of depressing dirges but this album is not only a triumph of doom but also a masterpiece of sonically engaging instrumentation. Needless to say, this is for the extreme doom listener and not for the weak or feeble. 'Despond' opens with a depressive spoken word intro called 'Weathering the Blight' and then it crushes you with riffs as thick and hard as cement in the first real track, 'Open Veins to a Curtain Closed.' The guitar sound comes in tidal waves of sonic bleakness; it is positively suffocating at loud volumes. The pacing is painfully lethargic, the song literally crawls or should I say oozes. The vocals are the incomprehensible death-doom variety but understanding the words is almost not-needed at all, the atmosphere tells the story good enough on its own. The guitar work of Timothei Lewis and Mike Meacham sits right on the edge between being gorgeous and downright ugly. The song takes its time building; in-fact it is seven going on eight minutes before it really hits its full stride but even then it stumbles along like a wounded sloth. It comes to a painful, grinding halt after 10 minutes and change.

'Cut Up, Depressed and Alone' is another slow doom epic with hauntingly exquisite riffing. It is much in the same vein as the opening tracks but with enough variations that it just can't be considered tedious if you love the funeral-doom style. Take special note of the riff that comes along five minutes in with this track, it is incredible. 'Deprived of the Void' is next and it has less emphasis on the heavy funeral-doom aspect and more on the ambient side of doom-metal. After the previous two tracks that take up close to 20 minutes of the disc, this track seems short even though it is still 3 minutes plus but it is a perfect lead-in to 'An Ill Body Seats My Sinking Sight.' These song titles should say it all but the depressing titles are matched by the even more forbidding music. This track has a evolving riff that slowly develops over the course of seven breath-taking minutes of pure-dismal doom. The absence of any real melody makes this an unbelievably heavy experience for the listener. If you have made this far into the album, there are no real surprises left but the care that has gone into arrangements and maintaining the hypnotic atmosphere keeps you listening. The title track comes on next and it is just a short but interesting instrumental that keeps the mood downtrodden. That leads into another highlight; 'Shallow Pulse' which is strangely relaxing with the use of clean choirs which are used in background chanting. Fans of Mourning Beloveth should really find something special with this track with its dark ambient vibe.

Another great track and title is 'Conceptual Funeralism Unto the Final Act (of Being)' which uses captivating twin guitars to absolute perfection. Even though it is about as energetic as a snail on prozac, songs like this one move and twist in their own unique way. Vocals are often pushed into the background which makes the rest of the music seem even more bleak if that is possible. The band also has the odd ability to make songs seem dynamic and involved even though the band is hardly progressive rock-minded in any-way. Also interesting... there are hardly any guitar passages that could be called 'solos,' it is all centered around gargantuan riffs and yet the lack of solos is never noticed by me. It wasn't till the third of fourth time I listened to this that I even thought about it, the music is so captivating that my mind was too engaged with the endless majestic riffs and pulverizing heavy-weight of the guitar sound. 'Silent and Completely Overcome' is a special track because it features the clean vocals of Brett Campbell from Pallbearer. The vocals here fit the Loss sound and style perfectly and this track alone is enough reason to buy this album. This track is also unique as it features a 'unexpected blastbeat' section. Where the hell it came from, I don't know but every time I listen, I am never ready for it. It is also the most 'black-metal' like track on the album.

The album ends on another masterpiece, 'The Irreparable Act' which changes the vibe ever so slightly. This track has an almost eerie Katatonia thing going on with relaxed strumming guitars and soft keys. It is a strange but unique track to finish the album on but it works. If you like albums that are claustrophobically slow and you don't mind long songs then this monster is for you. 'Despond' has 10 tracks, 7 of which are 7 to 10 minutes in length but if you are like me, you won't really notice it. It is also essential if you have never heard the band before but always wanted to. This album has tracks that were on earlier split releases but those releases are almost impossible to find today so this is yet another reason to grab a copy of this album. For fans of Warning, Mournful Congregation and Mourning Beloveth - this album is for you. I can't praise this album enough............10/10