After a hiatus of around two years since their previous full-length, the band led by Stijn Van Cauter brings a new album from their main band UNTIL DEATH OVERTAKES ME: Collapse of Light, which was released at the end of February this year.
For those who don’t know them, UNTIL DEATH OVERTAKES ME performs a highly depressing funeral doom, where the songs are rarely less than ten minutes long and which contain high doses of other genres, such as dark ambient or drone doom.
The band officially started in 1999, first with a split in 2000 and a year later with the Symphony I: Deep Dark Red demo, so they already have a long history and up to now they have released eleven albums and numerous singles and compilations; as well as being involved in a myriad of bands and projects, such as ARCANE VOIDSPLITTER, INFRAMONOLITHIUM or BEYOND THE BLACK VOID, all of them ascribed in one way or another to funeral doom. Stijn himself is in charge of composing and recording all the songs, as well as the instruments and voices. As usual in other «solo projects», live performances are very scarce or practically non-existent.
This album offers us five extensive tracks.“Dread”, the first one, is over sixteen minutes of that distinctive sound of the band: long, deep, and extremely slow riffs, with minimal and rumbling percussion; extensive keyboard sections, quiet ambient, and melancholic. The voice is characteristic of the style, very guttural, almost from beyond the grave, which is practically unintelligible unless you read the lyrics separately or English is your mother tongue. Together they make monotonous, hypnotic, and gloomy melodies, which have been a sound hallmark since its inception.
“Collapse of Light” gives the album its name, and is similar to the previous one in terms of structure and even length, around 17 minutes. However, we have a greater predominance of keyboards here; very cosmic and mysterious. The predominant note is still the slowness and the somber melodies. In general, the whole album conveys that feeling and does not change until the end of it.
The third cut, «Aeons Away from Home«, continues in the same vein as the previous ones. It begins with a long keyboard section, followed by the same lilting percussion to give way to long, buzzing guitar riffs. This is by far the shortest cut of the entire album, just over 8 minutes. The guitars disappear several times to yield to beautiful and melancholic keyboard interludes, very much in the style of bands like SKEPTICISM or the early PANTHEÏST.
It is “Death-blooms Perpetuate”’s turn, more than 18 minutes. The combination of guttural and cavernous voice, distorted guitars, almost ecclesiastical keyboard, and crushing drums make a decadent and devastating amalgam, creating a dismal atmosphere. This is something in which Stijn Van Cauter has demonstrated to be an expert in the course of his career, which in my opinion has developed in an absolutely masterful way.
The closing track, “Dread Afterimage” is a monolithic piece of more than 58 minutes that could practically be an album by itself. An extensive dark ambient song with some drone/funeral doom touches, due to the absolute prominence of the keyboards and the almost total absence of percussion. Although the guitars appear in several passages of the song, they do so at a much lower volume than in the previous songs, even the voice sounds more distant and slightly less guttural. This is without a doubt the most differentiating theme of the entire album, but for that reason, it’s not out of place or breaks the cohesion with the rest of the full-length, but rather serves as the final climax for this excellent work, signed by one of its greatest exponents within a genre often as reviled as funeral doom.
Although the structure and atmosphere of the album are very similar to And Be No More, I have seemed to appreciate a rawer sound on the guitars, giving the album an imprint closer to his first works. Even the art seems to suggest something akin to a demo or to a record from several decades ago.
The lyrics are very cryptic, as is usual in the genre and I think they lead to free personal interpretation. Although the common note seems to be once again desolation, the omnipresent and inevitable death, the idealization of life in the afterlife. The immensity of the cosmos, the futility of the human being, the absurdity of his existence. The firm desire for our own extinction; and of dragging ourselves into an unfathomable void where nothing and no one will ever remember us.
Although it doesn’t seem superior to their previous album, I think it’s a very remarkable release recommended for funeral doom lovers, and the ones that already follow UNTIL DEATH OVERTAKES ME will enjoy it since they are a band that rarely disappoints.