Founded in 2014, Oakland, California’s Damxa seem to be the masters of taking their time when releasing music. In the seven years of their existence, they’re only now releasing their second full-length album Unmarked Boxes. Somewhat a mystery to me, and relatively under the radar to mostly everyone else too, Daxma are a four-piece band, who deal exclusively within the realms of post-rock and doom metal.
Long drawn-out tracks and extended instrumental passages seem to take you on a never-ending journey into an abyss. Over the course of the six-track album, a total of fifty-eight minutes is amassed, and at no point is it anything other than a doom lover’s wet dream. Coming to this album, without any real background of the band, made me a complete newbie to what I was about to experience. And I wasn’t really prepared either.
More a heavy ambience experience than it is anything else, to even point toward anyone similar, for me, was impossible. The closest comparison I actually had was to dark shoegaze a lot of the time. It reminded me of the moodiness of shoegaze but in a far more morose way. To try and encapsulate it on paper, so you can try and imagine what it could be like, I would say it’s the equivalent of witnessing the world die, while you scream from outside. It’s hard, without being full-on, and considered, without being overly pretentious.
Right from the opening minutes of this opus, it’s clear just how Daxma like to play. The Clouds Parted is a thirteen and a bit minutes of slow, lurching doom. It varies in pace from slow to pretty much stopped. It’s so epically moody, and as much as I try and think of the last time I heard anything like this, the answer doesn’t exist. To this point, I thought My Dying Bride had the monopoly on painfully sorrowful doom music, but I was wrong. By no means am I comparing the bands, this IS NOT My Dying Bride, or even My Dying Bride-esque, but in tone, it’s completely parallel.
As the thirteen minutes draws to a close, I already feel like I’ve been through some sort of sonic apocalypse, but this is only the start. And The Earth Swallowed Our Shadows continues down the same dark dank path, only to even further drag us into the darkness. After a tentative start, its full moody beauty unfolds, as distorted guitars set the scene. As a piano plays through, the vibe is dark, depressing, and woeful.
My personal ‘highlight’, as if you can even use that word in this context, is track three, Hiraeth. At thirteen minutes twenty-eight, and knowing what we know already, this is going to be a long thirteen minutes. This time, I’m drawn in by the whole ‘dark shoegaze’ atmosphere. The ethereal voice over doomy sludge really reminds me of a slowed-down Windhand. Yes, I know, is that even possible?!? Well, as it goes, yes, yes, it is. It’s slow and drudgy, and feels like an entire album, without breaks between tracks, over the course on this one episode.
the musicianship is tremendous, and the way Daxma convey tone and feeling is absolutely next level…
By the time Saudade rolls in, I’m so welcoming of its presence. more than anything, so I can just recompose myself. It’s a lighter, acoustic guitar piece. It feels like some form of respite right in the middle of this mournful wasteland, and as it finishes, I’m less miserable than I was five minutes beforehand.
Anything You Lose, track five, ushers in another round of sorrow. At a minute and a half, a soft low vocal shows itself in the mix but becomes just that, part of the mix, so deep in the sound, its somewhat inaudible, as if trapped, walked over by bigger sounds altogether. By the end, it feels like standing at the edge of an abyss, wondering whether to drop in or not. Hypnotic and powerful, there’s no escaping the feelings of hopelessness and misery.
Comes Back In Another Form closes the album, but it still rolls in at almost ten minutes, so it’s not finishing just yet. By now, we know what to expect as Daxma crawl with more doomy misery. At times the pace shifts, and it’s heavier, but the overall vibe is what we’ve come to expect, and Daxma don’t disappoint.
As it finishes, I’m left with a sense of wonderment. It hasn’t been an easy ride by any means, I try and visualise which setting of my life I would need to listen to it again. Don’t get me wrong, the musicianship is tremendous, and the way Daxma convey tone and feeling is absolutely next level, but it’s more an experience than it is a repeat play kinda thing.
It’s wonderful in its darkness, but don’t go into it expecting a light airy romp, as it’s as far removed from that as any piece of music could ever be. By the same token, if darkness is what you seek, then look no further, this should be on your ‘most wanted’ list.
Scribed by: Lee Beamish