The ties between the occult and language have been explored on this blog a few times in the past. However, they bear repeating whenever we find ourselves faced with a release from a specific subset of doom metal. This niche, sub-genre runs the usual offerings of doom metal through a dark lense, channeling oppression and bleakness via a thick haze of occult references, esoteric ideas and obscure aesthetics. Mizmor are fit the bill of this subset almost perfectly, from name to cover art and, of course, through their music. The end result is Yodh, a hard to stomach album which nonetheless holds plenty of depth and interest for fans of feedback replete metal, screeched vocals and a boundless desire for self-annihilation.
First, their name. “Mizmor” is the Hebrew for “canticle”, a song often sung for the glory of god or in other festivities, honoring ideals, heroes or myth. Hebrew is an important choice. Ever since the Hermetic school of the Renaissance movement, it has been associated with a rich milieu of religious, magical and mystical ideas. This association stems from god’s original creation of the world and the fact that, in the Old Testament and the New, his words (spoken, supposedly, in Hebrew) create the world. Therefore, study and obsession with the Hebrew language is a common indicator of the occult way of thought, forever seeking to unearth hidden power and mysteries.
This desire to unearth hidden things is written all over Yodh. While the riffs intone a markedly slow death-knell, interchanging between it and blackened, high speed riffing when the occasion calls for it, the vocals decry a thrilling lamentation above them. Fans of the body or Thou will instantly recognize the role of such vocals, expounding on fear, sadness and bereavement more than the commonly, and mistakenly, associated madness. This approach leads to an interested interplay between vocals and guitars: the reverberating feedback of the instruments is an ooze from which the vocals dredge harmony, disharmony and understanding.
“The Serpent Eats Its Tail” is perhaps the best example of all of this. The track, residing right in the middle of the album, is a drawn out, circular motion towards an impossible to contain center. It opens with a classically “doom” intro and builds on it with traditional progressions; keep your ears sharp for the screeching feedback in the background, probably manufactured from an abrupt pick sweep, as it punctuates the proceedings. The vocals however are instantly unique, incredibly high and gutturally low at the same time, shifting between barks, groans and screams. And we’re even at the interesting part; around seven minutes, the whole thing just collapses, leaving us starting at a black hole of feedback, droning guitar notes and an overall abrasiveness that instantly summons Sunn O))).
However, instead of carrying us through the feedback into infinity, as that seminal band would have done, Mizmor bring back the riffs. The drums go just a little bit slower, utilizing cymbals to mark our progress. The guitars, somehow, reach back into the drone inspired middle and carve out a chord progression, one so monumental it is only given meaning by the now resplendent vocals. The modulation of before is abandoned in favor of straightforward and incredibly effective delivering, harping on a tighter, more controlled range for greater effect. And effect it receives: by the time the last feedback screech which ushers in the silence at the end of the track arrives, we’re thoroughly battered and tossed about by their intense tonality.
If you’re, for some reason, still not convinced that Mizmor are after the blackest, deepest places where knowledge is hidden, a simple glance at the album cover should be enough. Mysterious, inhuman figures stand shrouded in gray scale, like dolmens protruding from an earth that has ended. Their expressions are unfathomable, not to mention the minds that might motivate such figures. Like the album itself, the cover art is occult, hidden, mystical and overbearing; the music, in all its doom inspired glory, is simply the outward manifestation of such esoteric desires. Through it, we are ushered into a dark place of pointless, nihilistic introspection, obsessed with meaning while losing its way in feedback, crashing drums and forlorn vocals.