Review Summary: Dispirit's latest demo serves as a reminder not only of what the band is, but what they could rightly become in time.
Dispirit is the current outlet for legendary US metal figure John Gossard, most known for his work in the black metal band Weakling about fifteen years ago. While his most famous project has been defunct for years, Gossard and crew, in a way, continue Weakling’s legacy with their own brand of doom-and-reverb-laden darkness. But outside of sharing one key songwriter the two bands have virtually little in common; where Weakling’s music was fairly clean and clear (for black metal), Dispirit’s is as raw as black metal gets, using plenty of reverb (natural and synthetic, by my estimation) and low-quality recording techniques to create a suffocating, blurring cacophony of blackened doom metal.
And the sound on Disirit’s third demo is pretty bad
. It sounds like the band recorded a jam session in a basement with a tape recorder placed clear on the other end of the room. Given that all of their demos include this same lo-fi recording style (and were recorded live, probably all at Oboroten), I’m pretty sure by now that this has absolutely been their intention from the start. But, while listening to their newest demo, Separation
, one might begin to feel a slight pang of aggravation because, while the the two lengthy tracks here are excellent examples of the super raw, suffocating blackened mayhem that all “kvlt” fans should adore, it begins to become fairly obvious that these types of tracks could sound absolutely wonderful if recorded more properly with a less purposefully crude setup.
At this point, I think it’s mostly this insistence on the super crude sound that holds Dispirit back; while cultivating a reverb-filled, suffocating, and absolutely evil
atmosphere on everything they’ve done so far, Dispirit’s potential feels never fully realized because of the crudeness of their recordings. Sure, the “reverb bouncing off the walls that almost makes me feel claustrophobic” effect their music has makes it seem powerful, mysterious, and a little bit off-putting, but the shroud of fog their music always comes wrapped in also has the effect of covering up some of the finer parts of their writing. While both Dispirit and Weakling make/made heavy use of melodic guitar leads overtop blackened riffs, Dispirit’s seem to often end up either blurred into or on top of the rhythm sections during their more cacophonous moments, either taking away a potential melodic edge to the music or robbing the rhythm section of some of its intended fury. And that really goes for the rest of the music as well--whether it be during the eleven-minute post-rock-esque doom build-up in “Funeral Frost” or the all-out blasting of “Odylic Void,” every element of the band’s sound tends to get blurred together to the point where particular details end up lost or barely audible. For fans of super lo-fi raw “kvlt” black metal this may very well serve as a selling point rather than a turnoff, but for fans of Gossard’s previous work the lack of clarity marks a clear flaw in the band’s presentation.
And that’s what makes demos like this so aggravating to listen to; you can feel
how good this would be if it were actually part of a “proper” full-length and not just another demo tape--if the atmosphere and clarity between instruments were touched up and perfected just that little extra bit through less crude recording setups, whatever those might be. Dispirit may never have intended their material to compete with Dead As Dreams
, but demos like Separation
make the listener feel like maybe, just maybe, the band could give Gossard’s previous work a run for its money if they were ever to get something proper down on tape.
Despite the quality of the recording, though, Separation
is still a fairly enjoyable raw atmospheric black metal/doom demo that fans of the lo-fi style should definitely find more than a little enthralling; it’s suffocating, it’s evil, and Gossard’s echo-y screech-howl vocals are some of the most interestingly atmospheric (and terrifying) I’ve heard in the genre in quite some time. The raw atmosphere captured here is so palpable it almost automatically conjures images of a band almost completely obscured by fog as they play in some barely-lit cave deep in the bowels of the earth.
I suppose Dispirit’s rawness creates an interesting divide in their potential appeal; on the one hand, those looking for raw cacophonies of swirling darkness should end up more than a little satisfied, while on the other those looking for the true successor to Dead As Dreams
may be a little peeved by the band’s perceived wasting of their potential greatness. Whatever your poison, though, Separation
is still serves as an excellent example of raw atmospheric black metal, whether or not it lives up to one's expectations of a “true” Weakling successor. And, given the band’s repeated joking of a proper full-length seeing release in the next 5-10 years, I suppose “Weakling-lite” will for now just have to suffice for all of us.