Band: Burial in the Woods
Album: Church of Dagon
Label: Naturmacht Productions/Rain Without End Records
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal, Funeral Doom
Release Date: June 29th, 2019
Why the world of H. P. Lovecraft, one of the most influential horror writers to have existed, is not the subject of more black metal bands, I do not know. The world he created is one full of existential dread and impending doom, where the protagonists of his books are mere subjects to the horror’s that is acted upon them. He is the master of atmosphere, and the horror he creates does not come from the monsters themselves, but the protagonists inability to make sense of their existence. And sure, one could make a cursory search online to find a whole host of metal bands inspired by the works of H. P. Lovecraft, but many of these bands lack the atmosphere necessary to really grasp the subject matter in its entirety.
This entire diatribe leads us to Burial in the Woods, and their debut album Church of Dagon. Burial in the Woods is made up by a single member, hailing from the Berchtesgaden region of Germany. Or, at least, that is the claim. As with all black metal bands, one cannot always be entirely sure what is entirely truth. Church of Dagon takes its subject matter from the Lovecraft story about a town on the sea whose inhabitants, in exchange for large fish hauls, conduct ritualistic breeding with the Deep Ones, believed to be the gods of the sea.
Thematically, this album digs hard into motif of a church. Pipe organs open up the album and are returned to throughout each track. And in the absence of the pipe organ sound, the guitars fill in the gap, whose brash and metallic sound often replicates the organ’s. The Gregorian chants that open up the second track, “Ecclesia Dagoni”, and make a return in the final track, “Golger Alemi”, add really well to the overall feeling of the album. I say “feeling” because, ultimately, that’s what this album is trying to do; it doesn’t want to wow you with crafty musicianship, and it isn’t something you would necessarily blast while driving in your car (unless, of course, you are driving a hearse, in which case this may be quite fitting), this album wants to you to feel something. And that something is a sense of impending doom, of something horrifying happening. And the flow of this album is continuously building towards and reminding you of this, be it through the trudgingly doomy sections, the heaviness of the pipe organ, or the frenzied chaos that often accompanies long sections of guitar.
Structurally, Church of Dagon is essentially split into two: the first three tracks making up the Dagon storyline, and the final track being a lengthy cover song that, according to the information accompanying this album, center’s its theme around the “realm of shades” (cue ripping black metal guitars and soaring pipe organ). But while it is intended to be structured in this manner, in listening to the album this structure is far from clear cut, each working off of the other as if they were all connected. The issue with this is that, while working really well as an overall theme, the album kind of drags on a bit too long. At a run time of around 50 minutes, the sound can become a bit redundant.
I had initially planned on noting how well an album such as Church of Dagon would pair best with Autumn, particularly in the North East United States; it’s harsh and eerie use of the organ balancing well with the coming cold and darkness that Autumn brings. But right now it’s Summer, and where I live it is unreasonably muggy with evening setting in, and I can’t help but feel as though this might be the perfect time for such an album. Black metal tends to focus on the dark and cold, for obvious reasons; but that focus leaves out the majority of the rest of the year, when the atmosphere is often ripe for the gothic and spooky. And that’s ultimately the sensation I get from this album, with it’s heavy use of the organ and recurrent oriental chord structure. So that’s how I would suggest listening to this album: outside, during the heat of summer, when the sun is on its way down and the bugs are beginning to make noise. Ultimately, there is nothing fun about listening to this album, but the atmosphere it attempts to create is ultimately worth exploring.
- Forbidden Pages
- Ecclesia Dagoni
- Growing Shadows
- Gölgeler Alemi
Total Playing Time: 48:39