Seeing how Witnesses’ first two albums consisted entirely of electronic ambient music, it wouldn’t be unfair to think of To Disappear and to Be Nothing as a debut of sorts. Those roots certainly play into the melancholic mood and mellowed out performances, but the style is more directly drawing from prog and doom metal. The aesthetic isn’t too far off from the likes of a less fuzzy Warning or Khemmis with hints of Katatonia for that extra sadboi flavor.
The band’s knack for layering instrumentation carried over nicely when changing genres. The drums and guitars set up a bleak foundation, the former setting up some atypical patterns while the latter puts in blunt riff work and somber leads. The vocals are also solid, offering more power than the almost alternative timbre initially lets on. It’s also nice to see the extra instruments from their non-metal efforts stick around; the violin is always tasteful, and the saxophone on “A Game of You” is a nice touch that I’d like to see more of.
There isn’t much room for variation with five tracks and a half-hour runtime, but the songs manage to be solid. “A Statue Floats Downriver” may be the easiest to feel out, putting in To Disappear and to Be Nothing’s most straightforward, guitar-heavy arrangement. “Consummatum Est” and “When a Dark Age Comes, Hold the Light Inside” are the most drawn-out ventures, the former making the most of its string-heavy bookends while the latter lapses into the album’s most mournful dirge.
Overall, To Disappear and to Be Nothing offers a unique take on doom that would benefit from further development. The tasteful instrumentation and commitment to a melancholic mood can make for a stirring listen in the right mood, but the songwriting doesn’t make such a deep impression. It isn’t quite a transitional album in the conventional sense, but one can imagine these elements being put to even greater use later on. In the meantime, I have to give them props for having the gall to make such an extreme leap of faith.
“A Stature Floats Downriver”