LA “dream doom” trio Ides Of Gemini have, as many other reviewers have already pointed out, taken the basic principles of metal, specifically doom, and turned them on their heads to create their own broad-stroke take on the genre. The band consists of lead singer and bassist Sera Timms (of Black Math Horseman), drummer and backing singer Kelly Johnston and guitarist J. Bennett, a man who is perhaps best known for his day job as a legendary music and film journalist (you may have seen him on Such Hawks, Such Hounds filling in the gaps of the Sleep Dopesmoker/Jerusalem/London Records debacle that weed presumed robbed from Matt Pike’s memory). Musically they fulfil the “dream doom” tag which they’ve willingly accepted as a shorthand conduit into their sound; Bennett’s impressionistic guitar strokes form a hazy backdrop for the darker shades of Timms’ and Johnston’s spectral voices on this moody debut album.
Having said that, the “dream doom” tag has its limitations and first impressions of Constantinople may leave some doom fans scratching their heads and stroking their wondrous beards. In reality the band shares very little of the aesthetic of most doom bands; you won’t find any monstrously down-tuned guitars, sufwoofer-upsetting low end rumble or screaming on Constantinople. Instead the band simply borrow from the same well of despair and desperation that true doom bands take inspiration to shade the mood on this album black and grey.
The songs here are divided between being claustrophobic and possessing a sense of space; the appropriately titled “Slain in Spirit”, with it’s oppressive, nagging guitar chords and regimented, military drumming is a perfect example of the former while “Starless Midnight” and “Ressurectionists” are lighter in their approach while achieving the same sense of grief. Those who have followed the band since their 2011 debut EP The Disruption Writ will find each of the four songs on that EP here, albeit in their re-recorded forms, but fear not if you enjoyed the lo-fi versions with the tape hiss and programmed drums; the songs are given a fresh breath of life, sounding fuller and fleshed out with the addition of Johnston’s minimalistic drumming and complimentary backing vocals.
The new songs carry the same spirit of gloom with them too, often improving on those …Writ tracks and taking the mood into darker territory. Closing track “Old Believer”, “Reaping Golden” and particularly “Austrian Windows” are among the strongest songs on the album, the latter featuring an unusual, meandering chord progression that, combined with Timms’ sultry voice, sounds like a combination of post-OK Computer Radiohead and fellow LA dream-pop crew Warpaint. In fact the songs more often recall eighties and nineties alternative bands than any current metal bands; along the way you can hear hints of My Bloody Valentine, The Cure, Cocteau Twins, Joy Division and even Throwing Muses interspersed with occasional nods to metal by way of a spiky guitar riff. But the overarching mood of the album remains constant: dark.
Truth be told, there isn’t a huge amount in the way of variation on Constantinople and depending on your outlook this could well effect your enjoyment of the album. The songs all stroll along at a mid to slow pace and Timms’ melodies neither jump out at you from one song to another, nor do they bore. Bennett has half-joked that the songs here are the result of a long-overdue “mental fallout” and it’s easy to see Constantinople as a cathartic exorcism of demons. This also means that it’s an incredibly cohesive album that is best enjoyed as a whole, the songs best understood in context of the ones that came before. This is an impressionistic interpretation of doom, broad sweeps of emotion rather than fine brush strokes and so although the details that would clearly define Constantinople as a doom record are absent, the feeling you are left with is pretty damn gloomy. Of course the glass is half empty, and this is an album for the eternally glum.
Scribed by: Tom McKibbin