Review Summary: The doomjazz legends host a funeral; one without a casket, where the corpse has been stripped of its flesh. There is nothing to mourn here but the bare bones.
The aural use of space is a fickle thing to deconstruct. When taken to the extreme, there is no such thing as “too much” or “too little”. Critically considering an artist's work becomes complicated matters of “too little within too much”, “too much within too little”, “too little within too little” or perhaps, “too much within too much”. Using “too” lightly in this sense, as we all know of a jam-packed, wall-of-sound album that felt barren, shallow, but also fantastic, or perhaps a technically simple release that spoke immense volumes of rich feelings. Ergo, maximalism and minimalism are shallow, negligible concepts if they're met without any further expansion or analysis. While it's not obvious to tag German doomjazz ensemble Bohren & Der Club of Gore
under the latter of these concepts, their biding brand of sullen jazz-influenced ambience leaves much to be desired concerning substance on Beileid
(a german word signifying a condolence, the act of expressing sympathy. A word brought to mind by their mournful, reflective sound), their 7th studio album since the band's formation in 1992.
Upon opening, it becomes pretty clear with Zombies Never Die (Blues)
, that the band's sultry atmosphere has waned a fair bit with their last release, Dolores
, in 2008. Latching unto a synthetic airy sheen as backing, a vibraphone repeating a comfortable, predictable pattern and the occasional deep bass kick, the track falls flat fairly quickly, even after the intrusion of their signature provocative saxophone play. The expected subtle shift into enchantment never arrives, and the next track Catch My Heart
, begins with a structural styling all too similar to the last track. Perhaps a little more attention catching is the grave lyrics (a first for a Bohren & Der Club of Gore release) done by Mike Patton
(of Faith No More
, Mr. Bungle
) singing the song, a cover of the original by 80's heavy metal band Warlock
. Patton's clear, crooning voice manages to breathe life into an otherwise desolate album. It is of the few moments on Beileid
where a space patch of abundance is found amidst an otherwise gloomy environment; a subtle aspect common to Bohren & Der Club of Gore's other releases, but practically non-existent here, leaving but a despairing skeleton of their music, especially as Patton finished his part and the song slowly wanders blandly towards its finish.
The closer title-track does no favors for the band either, the indistinct synthetic atmosphere and hesitant electric keys might spell out the band's intended primary feel, melancholy, but throughout the track, this is all it does, and a group of artists once known for playing from a place of depth have sunk down to a shallow, two-dimensional plane. Gone is the dynamism, the dark allure of their seductive melodies, the feeling of having descended into a dimly lit catacomb. Bohren & Der Club of Gore is all business this time around.
For a band known for entrancing its listeners for upwards of an hour through the drawn-out tracks on their previous releases, the 35-minute length (over 3 tracks) of Beileid
seemed like it would be better suited to be released as a teaser-EP for a full-length release to come. Wary of this, as much as the album is a cohesive work, using 35 minutes for 3 tracks feels like submitting to watch a week's worth of reruns of a show that was canceled decades ago. Their ideas expire long before their means and they've lost the enduring aural magic that once dazzled their fans on Sunset Mission. Maybe they're getting a little old, but here's to hoping Bohren & Der Club of Gore stop this placid sailing and like a fine wine, carry on aging gracefully.