Founded in 1994, France’s Dirge is one of the most important bands in the genre of post-metal. While they originally had a more industrial sound, they soon moved into more atmospheric realms of heavy music. Combining elements of sludge, doom, and ambient, Dirge’s sound is unique and recognizable albeit almost archetypical of what we know as post-metal today. Lost Empyrean is their seventh album and another pretty great addition to their impressively consistent discography.
The upcoming release of Lost Empyrean follows four years of silence and a two-and-a-half year writing process. Luckily, the waiting time was worth it. Lost Empyrean is a beautiful and impressive album. Thematically, the album deals with the character of existence itself, the relationship between eternity and the confines of earthly life. Lost Empyrean is a dynamic and multi-faceted record that is both atmospheric and crushingly heavy. Sludgy riffs and ominous ambient soundscapes collide and build an atmosphere of turmoil and expanse. It is an album that lives off of contrast and contradictions. Heaviness and floating ambiance flow one into another and evoke images of vast desolate landscapes and feelings of being lost in a lonely world.
The songwriting is rational and emotional at the same time, with passages that sound very thought through and technical and more organic sections appealing to the emotions. While the album as a whole sounds like one big composition, there are many single elements to be noticed and appreciated throughout the record. The title track especially stands out to me, as it is one of the more melodic songs on the record, but without neglecting any of the sludgy heaviness the overall sound of the album is characterized by.
The vocals on Lost Empyrean are more varied than I expected after hearing the first two tracks, and range from typical hardcore influenced inharmonious shouting to spoken word passages and cleaner sung sections. However, the vocals are still my least favorite element of Dirge’s sound. When sung in the sludgy, disharmonious way, they often feel like a flaw in a perfectly beautiful image. Then again, that is probably one of the reasons they are performed the way they are – to increase the music’s atmosphere of contrast and contradictoriness. Still, I’d really like to hear an instrumental version of this album one day, because the riffs and melodies, the soundscapes and subtle details of the compositions are truly fascinating and impressive.
All in all, Lost Empyrean is a more than solid post-/sludge metal album rich in atmosphere and moments of musical genius that will definitely be to your liking if you like heavy riffs and atmospheric soundscapes.
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