Loss – Despond

Posted on June 17, 2011


Profound Lore


As prepared as we may think we are, the death of someone close to us is always difficult. Though I knew he was old and in failing health, I wasn’t ready for my grandfather’s passing when I was eight. And I certainly wasn’t prepared for the sudden death of a friend last summer, a tragedy not made any easier after I was called upon to be a makeshift pallbearer at his funeral. Two identical life events surrounded by vastly different circumstances, separated by 15 years of maturation. It doesn’t matter. Regardless of age, our reactions to loss are the same: grief, reflection and, in time, a celebration of a life no longer being lived. Simple adjectives like “young” and “old” bear no meaning when speaking of someone in the past tense is the only remaining option.

Unless you address this most solemn of subjects in the present, as Loss does on their debut full-length. Instead of focusing on events long since passed in cloudy vignettes, Despond evokes the Nashville, Tenn. death/doom quartet’s predilection for death as a process. What causes it. Who it affects. And, most damningly, how we cope with the most trying experience that doesn’t actually happen to us directly. It is death’s vicarious grip on us all that is emoted so strongly in tracks like “Cut Up, Depressed and Alone” and “Conceptual Funeralism Unto the Final Act.” There is beauty in the latter’s drawn out arpeggios and fragile clean guitar, its effect compounded by a mid-song break rendered crippling by Mike Meacham’s tar thick gurgles; the very sound of life leaving its host. It coats “Open Veins to a Curtain Closed”’s fairly standard funeral doom, its sparse, understated riffs haunted by such a presence, even as shocking but logical double bass only further blurs our perception of time.

But it is the sometimes soaring, sometimes somber, but always alluring melodies that detour these compositions from the mire in which so many other acts in this genre become bogged down. Despond is no imitation of the Peaceville Three, nor is it a sprawling soundscape reminiscent of U.S. legends Winter or Evoken. Songs feel like parts of a whole, not sewn together in a desperate attempt to form one cohesive unit. They bleed from black and white to stark washes of sepia, exchanging mile-long riffs for spoken word or piano. “You sat alone / You sat so long / Your words made very private scars,” Meacham states on intro “Weathering the Blight,” speaking of someone not yet gone, unscathed by the impending trauma. Elsewhere, on the album’s penultimate track, his voice soars in lament over stately guitar and lub-dub toms: “I do not remember a depression such as this / How many clocks has it been since we’ve last spoken? / Forgive me as I pass my soul from one dark evening unto the next.” We can only stand witness to such confessions, the bereaved begging the wronged, and think of our own transgressions. “Silent and Completely Overcome” about covers it.

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