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Futility – The View from here

I’ve had the privilege of seeing Futility perform on a number of occasions, and gave their self-titled debut a positive review on Heathen Harvest back in 2009. Sometimes in live performance, Futility have this way of getting insanely heavy…and then somehow it gets even heavier, usually just when you think they’ve gone down as music can. I mean, so heavy that it becomes transcendental. I never imagined this effect could be replicated on recording. And I was so wrong.

There’s a tremendous sense of gravity, a sense of absolute certainty of purpose, to this album, a clarity and momentum that I’ve almost never heard. Ever. The tidal sense of drama and stately onslaught reaches beyond funeral doom. In fact, the only band I can think of that reaches this kind of sheer, monumental power…is Neurosis.

Often on this album it is hard to think of the instruments as anything but a single unit, like a perfectly synchronized column of super-heavy tanks, firing and destroying in crushing unison. The guitars and bass – even when diverging into counterpoints – form a seamless tsunami of sound. The drums have so much movement and life in them. The fills and patterns are often surprising, with intimations of technical flair setting off their pummeling stride. Drummer Duncan Beard’s tom work particularly stands out for sheer destructive inspiration.

And yet then – and this is perhaps Futility’s gift in its most refined form – they know exactly when to grant some relief. The parting of the clouds mid-way through “Another Black Day” into broken chords and melodic lead comes so unexpectedly but so fittingly. When it descends back into the weight of the doom, my whole body leaps with it into the abyss.

There’s the word for it: this is first and foremost physical music, profoundly visceral, and it sends sparks of lightning throughout my whole body.

“And Still I Hate” displays a comparable use of dynamics, with a bleak downtuned acoustic guitar that lays the foundation for a slow-building eruption. It explores the terrain of minimalism and fury perfectly, and it is very hard not to sway and headbang even when sitting in front of a computer, typing a review!

The album’s pacing as a whole is magnificent – from a near-ambient beginning, into dread swathes of sheer doom gigantism, then with stems reaching across the inky, brooding territory of the human heart and back again, winding through despair and rage with even handed cruelty.

Rare though it is to hear a band so in control of their full powered assault, Futility also know exactly how modulate their fury, and this is what elevates “The View from Here” from being an excellent release…to being a sublime recording.

I haven’t commented on the vocals yet, and in a way it is hard to discuss about them. Brendan de Bear has always brought a profoundly tortured sensibility to lyrics that are, frankly, bleak without compare. On this album his talent stands out, because somehow no matter how bestial his shrieks and bellows, there always remains something of the human in there.

It is that hint of vulnerability that renders his performance so impressive, overwhelming even. Riding the writhing back of leviathan guitars and bass his voice assumes an all-powerful demeanor, even as it invites descent into the lowest recesses of feeling.

There’s something profoundly pleasurable about the misery and depression of doom metal. I certainly resonate with the Mournful Congregation dictum that “doom is for those whose hearts beat slower.” And so if, like me, you are wired with psychic low blood pressure, then you’re really going to get off on this album.

One final bit of icing on the cake. “Comfortably Numb.” Futility have always done fantastic covers, but this take on the Floyd is absolutely perfect. They’ve managed to draw something out of this song that I always felt unconsciously, but never understood. A mighty feat.

I have an admission to make: I wrote this review on my first listen of the album. I didn’t mean to. It just possessed me and I had to write. I don’t think I’ve ever responded to any release I’ve had to review like that before. The View from Here is an unmitigated doom metal tour de force.

Track List:

01) Drowning
02) Another Black Day
03) And I Still Hate
04) Nothing
05) Misrecollections
06) Comfortably Numb
07) Mantra

Rating: 5/5
Written by: Heimlich
Label: Tactical Solutions (Australia) / TSA003 / CD
Funeral Doom