Sometimes, I feel like doom metal and death metal got their names mixed up. Sure, death metal might have lyrics about death and a band called Death, but doom metal actually creates the feeling of destruction, annihilation, and end-times. Take I Shall Die Here, the 2014 collaboration between sludge/doom metal duo The Body and dark ambient musician The Haxan Cloak – an album that sounds like death.
Experimental even for the group that utilized orchestral throat singing and gospel on All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood,1 I Shall Die Here is unique in its utilization of spoken word samples, industrial sound effects, and prolonged sections of dark ambient more often heard on black metal albums than doom metal. The beginnings of “Alone All the Way” and “Hail to Thee, Everlasting Pain” feature pitch-shifted ruminations on death and suicide – creepy, but never lugubrious. The latter track features a keyboard break alongside Chip King’s falsetto shriek that launches into Sunn O)))-esque layers of amplifier worship. “Our Souls Were Clean” has the closest thing to a riff on the whole album, which trades off with The Haxan Cloak’s electronics that pulsate like a heart kept artificially beating following traumatic injury. “Darkness Surrounds Us” starts off with a slow build akin to Wrekmeister Harmonie’s You’ve Always Meant So Much to Me and switches into a plodding, stark guitar outro that bears the weight of its titular umbra.
It is no easy feat to produce a work that discomfits the listener, especially in a world where the extremes of extreme music via harsh noise and drone metal have been around for two or three decades. Opening track “To Carry the Seeds of Death within Me” begins with shrieking feedback drone and minimalist percussion, and frequently the music disappears completely with the exception of King’s horrific screams. It ends with two minutes of bass rumbles and vague industrial sound effects ending in muffled screams – the equivalent of the xenomorph stalking Ripley in Alien. I Shall Die Here is anxiety-inducing, and it provokes dread in the way Suicide’s “Frankie Teardrop” did almost four decades ago.
The packaging is spectacular. If there’s anything that can evoke existential dread, it’s the long dark of space. It also keeps I Shall Die Here away from the overly-brutal metal releases that focus on death, gloom, and gore but are too ridiculous to have the desired effect. Of course some of these acts are in it for the silliness,2 but others all too frequently cross the line from genuine jitters to humorously self-indulgent melancholy.3 Creepy? Like hell it is, with no hint of sarcasm. I Shall Die Here is a challenging listen, but an immensely rewarding one for those interested in the harshest of noise and the bleakest of heavy metal – “death” metal notwithstanding.
1. To Carry the Seeds of Death within Me – (6:29) – ★★★★☆
2. Alone All the Way – (5:22) – ★★★★☆
3. The Night Knows No Dawn – (7:37) – ★★★☆☆
4. Hail to Thee, Everlasting Pain – (5:57) – ★★★★★
5. Our Souls Were Clean – (5:22) – ★★★★★
6. Darkness Surrounds Us – (9:10) – ★★★☆☆
1… which is a fucking killer album title. Good thing the music backs it up. Check out “Empty Hearth.”
2E.g. Cannabis Corpse.
3E.g. Gorgoroth, Adversarial, and a lot of depressive-suicidal black metal.
4At the end of 2014, I included this album in my Top 10 albums of the year. In retrospect, I don’t think I would keep it there – but it is certainly in my Top 25.