Funereal doom and post metal, genres which often blend together in their search for bottomless melancholy expressed through slow yet abrasive music, are tempting genres for the uninitiated musician. They appear simple, composed of slow moving parts which should, in theory, be easy to manage. However, they (of course) hide within themselves a trap and, too often, musicians fall right into it, giving themselves over to repetitive music which has little merit beyond another iteration of old ideas. Cavernlight however manage to walk a very thin line between true-to-the-source homage and redundancy, making doom that’s so slow as to harbor on the funereal while managing to add enough flourishes from post metal in order to alleviate the weaknesses of their parent genre. As We Cup Our Hands and Drink From the Stream of Our Ache (hereby referred to as Cup) is not exactly a groundbreaking album but it certainly does what it sets out to do quite well.
At the basis of the album lies a formula which should be familiar to listeners of bands like Ahab, Inter Arma (whose Michael Paparo also appears on the album) and Usnea. From the very first moment and pretty much throughout it, huge guitars break, recoil, and break again on our ears. The vocal method prefers the high pitched screeches more akin to Usnea than Ahab, although some of it is varied with a deeper sort of growl. The drums are utilized as cavernous accompaniment to the rest of the instruments, along with the bass, playing the traditional role of lending breadth and weight to the instrumentation. So far, we’ve covered the basic elements of what makes Cup work and found nothing surprising, even though it is certainly accomplished. However, it is at the end of the second track and its lead into the third where the true qualities which make the album stand out first appear.
“Constructing A Spire To Pierce And Poison The Infinite” (as you can tell, the band have a penchant for long titles) ends with an echoing and quiet version of its main line, fading into the distance. Where we’d expect the following track to shatter the somber peace that it had created, “Wander, Part II” instead dives into menacing drone. A slow burning static fills our ears as rare guitar strums resonate through the spaces first carved out by “Constructing A Spire To Pierce And Poison The Infinite”. Placing this sort of sound at the middle of the album is a bold move and one which appears to be no accident. While the following track, “To Wallow In The Filth That Dwells Where Despair Is Born”, returns us to the heavy sounds that characterized the introduction to the album, something is irrevocably changed, made more forlorn and haunting in Cavernlight’s sound.
This brave structure is what sets Cup apart as it spins the music in a direction closer to A Swarm of the Sun. The absolute expression of this shift can be found on “A Shell of One’s Former Self”, filled with choirs, fresh backing vocals and an overall atmosphere of haunting chill. All of these crash upon the return to the first type of sound, the heavy and abrasive, as the album winds down before leaving us once again with static (recalling the ending to Inter Arma’s The Cavern) to user us on our way. This ending track solidifies As We Cup Our Hands and Drink From the Stream of Our Ache as an album with something to say while still staying close to its influences, blending a heavy and satisfying haze of funereal doom sensibilities with plenty of evocative and convincing ideas.
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As We Cup Our Hands and Drink From the Stream of Our Ache releases on the 16th of June via Gilead Media. You can head on over to the Bandcamp link above to pre-order it. Stay Doom™.