Countless songs have been written about the sea. Its calming serenity, its tranquil beauty – its bottomless depths and immeasurable scope for untold violence. Indeed, the darker aspects of the vast oceans that cover our Earth and hold untold secrets perhaps go hand-in-hand with sludge and doom better than any other style of music. The hypnotic crashing of riffs, the vast soundscapes and gloomy atmospheres, not to mention the stifling impact of a fuzzy guitar bolstered by booming percussion and guttural growls. As Ahab will attest, the best funeral doom sounds akin to slowly sinking into a bottomless abyss, and this much is exemplified by Marko Soroka’s own sea-faring project Drown.
Soroka may not be a household name, but is one of many dedicated artists keeping the metal section of Bandcamp interesting with a prolific catalogue of releases from a wide array of genres. Their music is all name your price, and it’s all worth hearing, whether it’s the atmospheric black metal of Krukh or Aureole, the gleefully silly death metal of Tchornobog or indeed the imposing weight of Drown. Acting as a sequel to the project’s first outing, Unsleep (released back when the project went by the name Slow), Subaqueous comprises two twenty-minute tracks that explore grief and dejection through a metaphor of sinking deeper and deeper.
Like the best concept records, these themes manifest in the music itself. Soroka’s cockle shell-encrusted throat bellows the lyrics, which ring out like a foghorn whilst the riffs spew forth like black waves, smothering the listener with salt foam and seaweed. The sheer might of this record is no doubt partly owed to producer Greg Chandler who, as a founding member of Esoteric, certainly knows a thing or two about funeral doom. Chandler’s work ensures that this record is one of the heaviest things you’ll hear all year, but also pays heed to the mournful melodies and floating harmonies that carry the album’s grief-stricken heart.
This record is ruthless and imposing, but underneath its harsh exterior is a sorrowful underbelly. “The water filling the protagonist’s lungs not only crushes them; they make him one with the ocean deep,” says the accompanying bio. A reminder that whilst mother nature can be heartless and cruel, she can also help us overcome our anxieties and begin to heal.
Subaqueous is out now and can be purchased here.
Words: George Parr