While retaining the listener’s interest is a prominent challenge throughout doom metal’s subgenres, this burden is much heavier for funeral doom. Whereas more traditional doom subgenres contain (relatively) shorter songs with more facets and drone doom can lean on trance-inducement as a crutch, funeral doom contains a risky combination of extended compositions with limited variation. There are, of course, a number of excellent bands in this subgenre, such as Esoteric, Evoken and Thergothon, all of whom furnish their songwriting with more than enough detail and efficient pacing in order to awe the listener without boring them. Oregon based Maestus certainly flirt with the compositional skills of their influences on their sophomore effort Voir Dire, but they stumble when it comes to structuring a cohesive and engaging album.
Voir Dire contains several moments that prove that funeral doom can be a riveting genre when done well. Maestus open up the album with twenty-two minute behemoth “Shrouded by Peaks, Valleys Speak,” on which the band concocts the soundtrack for an epic fable. Angelic female vocals, dismal symphonic elements and a thick, heavy assault of elongated guitar riffs provide the track with a satisfying amount of development and intrigue. Elsewhere on the album – particularly within the four part arrangement of “Opaque Shadows in Framed Stillness” that concludes the album – appears passages of blackened sludgy death, akin to Lycus’ fantastic style of funeral doom. These segments present a more atmospheric approach to something Coffinworm or Dragged Into Sunlight might write, and provide some much needed respite.
Unfortunately, these moments of variation and Maestus’ competent songwriting abilities are not enough to salvage the primary downfall of Voir Dire. As was previously mentioned, “Shrouded by Peaks, Valleys Speak” spends over twenty minutes opening up Voir Dire, and the four song album conclusion of “Opaque Shadows in Framed Stillness” reaches a combined run time of more than a half-hour. While both of these pieces could have easily been released separately as solid EPs, their conglomeration into one album – along with the three forgettable tracks that appear between them – causes a tiresome listen. And though Maestus write worthy music, nothing on Voir Dire is groundbreaking, and often times it feels as though the band are merely treading water in order to beef up the album’s run time (for some unbeknownst reason).
Whether or not listeners’ interest in Voir Dire will remain up through “Opaque Shadows in Framed Stillness” depends entirely on their dedication to funeral doom, as not much precedes it to provide casual listeners with incentive to tolerate over seventy minutes of strikingly similar sonic landscapes. Perhaps a Shrouded by Peaks, Valleys Speak – EP and an Opaque Shadows in Framed Stillness – EP would have been better suited for Maestus’ approach to funeral doom, for as it stands with Voir Dire, the band is not distinct and terse enough to produce a notable full-length within the subgenre.
Maestus’ Voir Dire gets…