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The Howling Void - "Megaliths of the Abyss" (CD)

The Howling Void - "Megaliths of the Abyss" CD cover image

"Megaliths of the Abyss" track listing:

1. Megaliths of the Abyss (10:05)
2. Mollusk (11:33)
3. Ouroboros (9:10)
4. A Name Writ in Water (12:57)

Reviewed by on September 14, 2008

"Those with the patience to make it through the entire album will go on a somber journey that is much like taking part in the stages of a funeral for a loved one."

Innovation and perfection are frequently achieved at the lowest levels of the musical strata, by those lesser known bands or independent releases that aren’t bound by the demands of a multitude of fans voting with their pocket books. When the pressure to make sure the music is acceptable enough to the mainstream to get sales in mall chain stores across the nation is completely absent, then musicians are free to create in new directions. The Howling Void has crafted one of the best representations of its genre, which is a fusion of drone and doom metal, with the indie release “Megaliths of the Abyss.” Those with the patience to make it through the entire album will go on a somber journey that is much like taking part in the stages of a funeral for a loved one.

The opening title track serves as the funeral’s procession, becoming a long and slow journey towards the deceased’s final resting place filled with sorrow for love lost and possibilities unfulfilled. The music is incredibly slow moving, making the phrase “down-tempo” seem dreadfully inadequate. All of the instruments keep a deliberately measured and unhurried pace, as though they are aware that it doesn’t matter how long it takes to get to the end, as the curse of mortality ensures that everyone will reach their ultimate destination sooner or later. Keeping all of the sounds moving at the same rate works well to mesh all of the instruments together into one unified mechanism of despair, but it has the unfortunate tendency to occasionally drown out the single note drum beats as the guitar drones on for massively long notes. The infrequently used vocals are mostly deep and drawn out guttural death growls that are so mired in the slowly moving muck that they can’t be made out at all, which seems to be intentional, as they give the feeling that words are unimportant in the face of death.

“Mollusk” continues the feeling of never ending sadness from the first song, but also adds in hints of menace and peril, as the participants of the funeral realize that they too will one day be occupying a casket as their friends gather around to mourn. The rain drizzling ending emulates the moment when the grief reaches its peak as flowers are dropped into the grave and the body of a dear friend is truly lost forever. By the time “Ouroboros” arrives it becomes clear that the music will never leave behind the cheerless atmosphere, just as the lost will never return to life. Lonely guitar riffs being accosted by harsh whispers from beyond the grave punctuate the song, bringing forth thoughts about life after death and how people can continue on without their companions. Strangely, the keyboards reach a point just over halfway through the song where they could almost be accused of showing glimmers of hope instead of soul crushing despair. Perhaps this is the point where reflections occur on how the dead affected the funeral-goers lives, the delight that was felt in their company, and the legacy they left behind for the living to enjoy.

As a reminder that those moments of shared happiness are gone forever comes the final song “A Name Writ in Water.” Combining the melancholy attitude of “Ouroboros” with the gloom of the opening song, this track is the long road towards acceptance of the finality and inevitability of death. It offers no comfort and takes away no pain, but it lacks the heartrending and agonizing feelings of tragedy that were present when the funeral began.

The album really only works as intended during those meditative or introspective times when the need for a constant background noise arises to help support musings on all those unanswerable intangibles about life and death. Like a real funeral, there is that uncomfortable part in the middle for all the people who weren’t intimately familiar with the deceased where it would really be nice if they could just speed things up and get the whole ceremony over with already. There is a good deal of repetition on the album that can make it hard to work through the whole thing in a single session. Unlike the repetitive choruses and repeating guitar lines of the three minute pop songs that blare out of the radio, the repetition present in the twelve minute marathons on “Megaliths of the Abyss” require attention and perseverance, so there is no danger that these tracks will ever get out on the airwaves.

Highs: Creates an amazing atmosphere and has incredible production for an indie release

Lows: The drums are occasionally droned out and sometimes the repetition gets out of hand

Bottom line: A drone/doom metal hybrid perfect for musings about life and death

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)