Review Summary: A slow march with many faces, demons in tow.
Belgium's Slow has had one hell of a career. In the ten years since the debut, I - Silence Lives Out/Over Whirlpool
they've been on one hell of an upward trajectory. For many their 2013 piece, III - Gaïa
was the definitive album that cemented Slow's steady growth into musical relevance by taking all the earmarked qualities found in acts such as Mournful Congregation, Monolithe, Evoken… (just to name drop a few) and forged a sound of their own within this closing niche.
Which brings us to VI – Dantalion
"The Seventy-first Spirit is Dantalion. He is a Duke Great and Mighty, appearing in the Form of a Man with many Countenances, all Men's and Women's Faces; and he hath a Book in his right hand. His Office is to teach all Arts and Sciences unto any; and to declare the Secret Counsel of any one; for he knoweth the Thoughts of all Men and Women, and can change them at his Will. He can cause Love, and show the Similitude of any person, and show the same by a Vision, let them be in what part of the World they Will. He governeth 36 Legions of Spirits; and this is his Seal, which wear thou, etc."
After the last effort, V - Oceans
it's hard to imagine if Slow would continue this quality run and the group's fifth full-length is just as instrumentally vast as its namesake. VI – Dantalion
however plateaus on the greatness of its predecessor, offering funeral doom divinity with wholesome expertise. VI – Dantalion
may not quite live up to V - Oceans
, but it's quality is still measurable among the best 2019 has had to offer. In a world of first impressions, VI – Dantalion
is a massive undertaking, but not so much as to be considered abnormal among its peers. The record’s first track, “Descente” offers light keys and forlorn atmosphere before launching an all-out bombardment in the shape of broad riffs and demon-summoning growls. Slow are launching an album heralding the very conceptual being of its namesake, but for all the gloom and despair found within the band’s vocals and instrumentation there’s a manifestation of hope light a single ray of light through the darkness of clouds.
“Descente” much like the rest of the record to follow it, is lifted by the album’s production. A lot of the mix is brought forward, encouraging the natural power of those cavernous ringing chords, the demonic, earth-bending growls and is hindered (only slightly) by some level of monotony which provides the platform for Slow’s monolithic soundscapes. As the record continues and “Lueur” enters the fray with its lumbering (but completely expectable) seventeen minute run-time Dantalion
moves into a crescendo that doesn’t stagnate within its own instrumental nuances, moving forward with sound purpose. It’s confronting; in tone and body as the crushing weight (and general mass) of Slow’s soundscape presses and suffocates upon the listener, clearly doing the job as intended. Much of Dantalion
continues in this manner, taking on the natural ebb and flow of a funeral doom album hitting its stride.
Despite the towering use of monolithic ringing chords and powerful growls, the album’s final track, “Elégie,” takes on a celestial, melancholic feel draped in quiet minimalistic synth and graceful piano keystrokes. Slow prove they can take the other side of doom’s coin and fill it with as much emotion as the heavier, more predictable elements of the band’s soundscape. As this final musical tome continues, even the keys abdicate, leaving synth, gentle guitar and pure atmosphere to wrap up this hour and eighteen minute journey and the opus under the VI – Dantalion
moniker comes to a rest - hopeful moods permeating even after the last note finishes.