A shimmering Shoegaze guitar breaks the silence as I hit play, quickly accompanied by a thunderous frenzied drum beat followed by dual layers of vocals, one a guttural scream, the other a feminine drone. A sudden shift to a contemplative interlude of strings and piano occurs after the first stanza of lyrics is delivered. “The Erotic Waltz” is upon us.
The latest release from Maine’s Great Cold Emptiness, “Death Gifted a Bouquet”, is a lesson in musical shifts and twists. Mastermind Nathan Guerrette calls his music “Atmospheric Black Doom” and he does a much better job than I could of discussing what this latest release means in terms of its story, both on the Bandcamp listings and in the interview with VUK. Therefore, I will stick to my interpretation of the music itself.
In addition to the aforementioned sounds, you can expect to hear swirling synths, comprising angelic voices, as well as a synthesised chorus of demons/angels, dripping with contempt and regret singing their lament. There are slow trudging Doom riffs over a tribal tom rhythm, as if played by a corps of drummers around a fire.
Throughout the 67 minutes and four tracks, you will hear the split personality vocals of the amazing Meghan Wood, who has numerous releases to her own credit under the name Crown of Asteria. On “The Breadmaker’s Daughter”, her dual vocals trade prominence in the mix, the feminine drone pushing out and then submitting to the guttural scream, back and forth.
“The Little Deer” opens with a slow dirge with an organ riding underneath the single note guitar accentuating the heavier chords. While the main melodic instruments remain somewhat stable on this track, the drums shift from normal time into double-time, and then drop out altogether at points. An arpeggiated synth, still travelling at super speed takes over. Everything slows, a lead guitar provided by Joseph Davidson (Churchacide, Worthless Life) comes in, first playing slow single notes, followed by wild arpeggios mimicking the prior synth part, finishing up with tremolo picked repeated single notes.
That brings us to “The Withering Pyre”, which shifts from ringing guitar and synth chords over an ever evolving drum beat to synth-heavy interludes into a slow, dragging drum beat, as if the music is reluctantly taking us further towards the infinite. Again, the drums shift from normal pace to double-time, with singing synth and organ sounds rising higher in pitch, adding to the frenzy of the drums. The slow chord progression and vocals begin to feel incongruous with the hyper beat.
After listening to this album several times over a few days, the only unanswered question lingering in my mind is, are the drums performed and recorded by Nathan or are they programmed? Either way, they are a great deal of what sets this album apart musically for me. The ever shifting tempos, changing drum beats, and the use of more than just kick and snare in a lot of the beats keep the lengthy songs interesting.
Rating – 4/5
Great Cold Emptiness
Bandcamp (prior releases)
“Death Gifted a Bouquet” album
“Death Gifted a Bouquet” album
Crown of Asteria