I was already intrigued to hear fresh material from the blackened post-hardcore collective the Drowned God. While The Ebony Void was far from the most talked-about EP of 2015, it was one of a handful of debuts that imprinted each respective artist on my personal map. To sweeten the deal this time around, however, the Drowned God have bolstered their impressive material with what almost certainly appears to be a tongue-in-cheek jab at blackgaze. Yes, that oft-maligned little style that traded the grim malcontent of black metal with the shoegaze and post-hardcore influences, all wrapped up in the musical equivalent of a cathartic group hug.
The Drowned God certainly aren’t blackgaze themselves per se, but there are some cheeky nods to the scene. For one, the choice of name for this new album, Moonbearer, as well as the artwork are conspicuously close to Moonlover by Ghost Bath—a perfectly flaccid blackgaze landmark arguably second only to Sunbather in terms of its popularity. Also, maybe I’m splitting hairs at this point, but even the name of a track like ‘Sundowning’ seems to be pointing a finger at Deafheaven’s breakthrough. I don’t know ultimately whether these references are meant in tribute or in jest, but it does offer an interesting frame of reference to interpret the Drowned God’s latest work. Moonbearer isn’t blackgaze, or even related to black metal. Rather, it’s what blackgaze would sound like if all the blackened elements were removed. The remaining sludge and post-hardcore threads arguably make a more compelling formula.
Moonbearer is unrelentingly emotional and cathartic, usually to the point where the Drowned God see it fit to overshadow all the bands they’ve tipped their hats towards. Deafheaven’s superior cousin Bosse-de-Nage would have been a better model for them, I think; the brimming anger of screamo and post-hardcore threads brought forth by Bosse-de-Nage serve the Drowned God equally as well. Without the same speed and chaotic intensity as the band’s influences, Moonbearer opts to be crushing in an Isis sort of way. The sludgy guitars are perfectly accented by the screamo-type howl of Cody Golob, who may well be the band’s standout talent. Instrumentally, I’ve heard plenty of bands that switch between crushing sludge and mellow but focused post-rock twang. Moonbearer demonstrates they’re a head above in most regards, but it’s the last-gasp vocals that really aim to devastate.
It doesn’t take a lot to invent a fusion of styles, but bringing the ingredients together is another matter. If the Drowned God feel they’ve found a spiritual kinship with the blackgaze scene, the comparisons can only go so far now. Moonbearer sets its own path, and I hope it won’t be long before we see where they take their sound next.
02) I’ll Catch the Back of Her Head
03) Tomorrow Your Chest Cavity Will be Alone
04) Darkness Comes Early down Here
05) Nighttime Lips
07) Moon (Ft. Rich Weinberger of Gatherers)