Bereft – Lands Review

Band: Bereft
Album: Lands
Label: Prosthetic Records
Genre: Blackened Doom
Country: USA
Release Date: March 31, 2017

Bludgeoning, brutal, crusty and yet warm, Lands by Bereft is almost surely destined to be a classic of its subgenre. Featuring massive songs and riffs, gut-wrenching vocals, and heft that will smash your soul, Lands dredges the depths of human suffering, worming around in the darkness and yet giving bright glimpses of hope and life.

Opening track “We Wept” is as titanic as they come. Moving with the speed of a slug, growled vocals shrieking the song into existence, we trudge over a battle-scarred landscape, absorbing all the misery in view. If anything, this song is an aural representation of that grim cover art, and if this doesn’t cleave your skull like the axe in the picture, nothing will. At the four minute mark, the riffs start to chunk up, moving faster, a dirgy thrash feel. Oh, it’s not fast, but in comparison to the slog of the earlier parts, you’d think you were listening to Metallica. Crush, crush, crush come the riffs, accompanied by a mixture of clean and growled vocals. This is a great combo to convey the emotions of the song. Around 6:40 into this mammoth slab of heaviness, it all picks up yet again, as semi-blast beats roll and the black metal bristles to the forefront. This is all effortless and slides from one movement to the next, smooth and logical.

“The Ritual” is the second song; the shortest of the bunch (at 8:38!), and opens with an atmospheric guitar, a little bit of cymbal work, and a rising sense of dark drama. The riff follows, heavy and slow and just so crushing. As with every track on this album, this song breathes, allowed time to rise, to build the atmosphere, so that when the black metal rumbles to life three minutes into the song, you’re ready for it, begging for it, really, to release you from the miasma of grief and pain that precedes it. Tough and powerful.

The misery and aching continue on third track “In Filth.” Again we are treated with heavy, mournful guitars, trudging through the agony of existence. Doom is the key here, as with all the songs, deep and despondent Doom. Heavy as hell, resounding in ways that will shake you to your core, Bereft dip deep into the dregs here, offering no solace or hope, indeed, wallowing in filth. The drums are of particular interest on this track, pummeling without every blowing your face off, played expressively and with great emotion.

Final song “Warning Light” chimes in with a lone guitar, a death toll, like the ringing of a church bell, calling mourners to a funeral. It builds and builds and yes, here comes another riff, dropped from the blackened skies, a series of boulders that smash anything in their wake. Brutal and hammering, to say the least, and slow, almost painfully slow. That’s Blackened Doom, baby. A sweet, emotive guitar solo comes to life four minutes into the song, leading us into the next movement, the power building and the pace picking up from a crawl to a stunned lurch. 6:45 slides into some seamless black metal guitar and blast beats, with the requisite shrieks. It all fits together so perfectly, so effortlessly. The whole thing crashes back down into that lone guitar from the beginning, bringing light and shade to a bleak world. The crush returns at about the10:40 mark, and we are back to the grind yet again. The song rides out on melodic guitar, fading, fading, bleeding into the light.

Bereft have brought us a staggering work of colossal power. It is not a perfect record, but it’s damned good. Those riffs work together with the production to create a slow hammer blow to the head that never quits, never lets up. How something this big can sound so warm and yet so crusty is almost a miracle in and of itself. And the bass guitar! What a pleasure it is to actually hear the bass, sitting perfectly in the mix, distinct and yet fully a part of what is going on all around it. If anything, this little bit of extra is what maybe sets this record apart from so many others like it. You won’t find a reinvention of the Blackened Doom sub-genre here, which is why it doesn’t get a score of 10, but you will find an almost perfecting of the form, and that alone warrants the high number, along with the fine songwriting and performances. If you’re into things dark, if you’re into Doom and Black Metal, you will find a comfortable friend to pass the time with in Lands.

Turn it on, crank it up, and prepare to be crushed.

Rating: 8/10

1. We Wept
2. The Ritual
3. In Filth
4. Warning Light

Total Playing Time: 44:15

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