Arriving a tad-bit late to that minute hype revolving around Slow is not a negative thing in the sense that the Belgian duo is in no hurry at all. For them it seems as if the way is the proverbial goal and not the arrival, thus whenever you join, the welcome will be the same. Whether you want to join depends on you, but as soon as you step foot into this world of sparkling darkness and warm descents your wish to leave might diminish, for the Funeral Doom of records like Abîmes I, their latest, is simply, astonishingly good.
When the band was founded by Déhà in 2007 he might not have envisioned how long-lasting the project would become; now it is already in its 16th year and since 2017 and the joining of Lore B it is not a one-man-project anymore either, but a full band. One that has put out brilliant records at their own speed, their last record, VI – Dantalion was released in November 2019 and now, more than four years later, they are releasing their next record, Abîmes I, okay maybe their band name is also a description of their songwriting process; just joking.
In our review of the last record, we mentioned that the duo is at the top of its genre, and they still are, even in a year in which both Ahab and Bell Witch released two great new records – 2023 might go down as one of the finest years in Funeral Doom ever. And with Abîmes I there is a slight change in the soundscape of Slow, which is said to be an abbreviation for “Silence Lives over / out Whirlpool”: They exchanged the multiple clean piano lines with more embellished synth and Ambient passages underneath the four songs spanning more than 40 minutes. The songs are a bit less crushing and less aggressive, which is surely a good after the little lockdown situation the world had to go through in between Slow’s last two records. Silence is not really an important factor for their songs, but rather the idea of elongating songs but not dragging them out – Déhà and Lore are not trying to copy Sunn O))) or any other Drone Metal artists; they create songs which need time, yes. But they never draw them out until they become stale and uninteresting. In a genre that seems to consider songs under eight or ten minutes as poppy the ability to keep things as long as necessary but at the same as short as possible that is a nice difference-maker.
Listening to songs like ”Barren” or ”Abyss” one can easily see how important the little brighter spots are for Slow, stuff that seems to be rooted in some form of Prog Rock or Prog Metal. Please do not mistake the latter for some snobbish arrogant wish to perform runs across the scales it is more a bit of tuning which reminds me of some of the slower passages of bands like Yes or Marillion, some flourishing touches that make all the darkness of the collapsing wave on the cover more bearable; they are the little white touches in the middle of that painting. By the way, the color palate is still a pretty dark grey, with occasional whites to provide a stronger contrast.
Contrast, that is a good way of describing Slow’s music and it might best be connected to the final long-track and masterpiece ”Collapse” - there are the strong winds cascading onto the listener at home, taking his breaths away engulfing him with tumbling sound over tumbling sound and yet there are still these little rays of hope. And even when Déhà tries to shake our very core with his gut-blasting screams (a seeming nod to Black Metal) we are never really afraid of being lost, there is still that tiny ray of light, that little out, that minute bit of hope. As if they are trying to use the string passages and the small guitar solos beneath the lurking vocals, the deafening drum hits and the heavy riffs to keep us focused on our aims. This wave will not drown us, it will be challenging, but not deathly. And when then the piano passage in the middle comes up we are able to take deep breaths, to calm down and to prepare ourselves for the next rampant attack. We will not go quietly into the night, we will not go down without a fight. And Slow are the soundtrack to that. They accompany us; however, at the same time they also give us some reason for fear. A dichotomy? Yes. But one that I have been enjoying the hell out of. If you start your journey with Slow right now – no problem. Just remember, you are about to stay.