One genre which has come to light for me in recent years is that of occult doom. A sub-genre I had no real awareness of, and yet with all of its unique mysticism, I couldn’t help but be intoxicated with it. Once I had stumbled upon it, I now have a real fondness for all things occult doom indeed.
For me, that journey started with Jess And The Ancient Ones, and it has lead me down a dark spooky path, right up to todays topic for discussion, the French outfit Deathbell, who are releasing their brand new opus A Nocturnal Crossing this very week.
So, unlike anything else out there, and so off of the beaten track, it’s hard to uncover such bands without a guide, please, let me take your hand, and welcome you in to the world of Deathbell. Initially formed in 2016, the five-piece released their debut, With The Beyond, two years later, in 2018.
Fast forward four years, and here we are, with the newly invigorated Deathbell lurching forth, and delivering us the fantastical A Nocturnal Crossing. Six tracks of dark, occult, doom laden goodness, unlike anything you’ve witnessed before, well unless you are well versed in all things occult doom.
Over the course of the forty minutes, Deathbell take us through the underbelly of the quagmire, and introduce us to a world of the unseen, the spiritual, and the mystical, the likes of which will leave you gasping for more. Hidden symbolism weaving its way through the symphony, which will go unnoticed to the untrained eye.
Opening with the incredible The Stronghold And The Archer, Deathbell set the scene for something truly special indeed. Lauren Gaynor’s moody and ethereal vocal rolls over the soundtrack in such a way, that the air instantly becomes heavy, and the mood darkens without a second’s notice. An ominous opening sees the piece slowly progress, and as it does, so does the intensity. The mix of fuzzy guitar, eclectic vocals, and intense drum work, leaves very little doubt as to the intensity of the mood. As hypnotic as it is intense, this really sets the benchmark for me, and it’s from this point I instantly draw a comparison to Jess and the Ancient Ones.
The mix of fuzzy guitar, eclectic vocals, and intense drum work, leaves very little doubt as to the intensity of the mood…
Track two, Devoured On The Peak, continues to up the intensity, and with its somewhat sleazy vibe, shows a different side to Deathbell’s dynamic as well. The Ladder, track three, really hits all the right notes with me, and I bitterly enjoy this one. There’s a real air of nostalgia about this track, and its drudgy fuzzy overtone really elevates it to being a highlight for the whole album. Its air of doomy psych, mixed with soaring guitar, sounds unlike anything I have overly heard before, and it thrills me.
Track four, Silent She Comes, is where things get really spooky. I’m sure for anyone who moves in mystical circles, the number four has some relevance, so the fact that it also comes in at four minutes and forty can’t be a coincidence. Because of the subject matter, I Google searched the relevance of the number four, and to take a snippet, it says it’s associated with ‘self-expression and self-fulfillment’. It also states it as the representation of ‘maturity and stability of mind’. After listening to the track multiple times, I reached the conclusion that this perfectly encapsulates Deathbell’s complete control and mastery of what they are creating.
Both track four, and the following five, Shifting Sands really show Deathbell’s control and connection to the music. Playing on their own terms, they take the rulebook and redesign what’s expected. The aforementioned Silent She Comes is as lavish as it gets. It’s spiritual, mystical, and totally phenomenal. The hypnotic vocal over a doom background, complete with incredible guitar wails, conjures up ideas of otherworld’s, times, and places. Whereas Shifting Sands has a real eclectic retro feel and pulls on a real 70s vibe. It’s as creepy as it is ethereal.
By the time the closing track, and album title, A Nocturnal Crossing arrives, I’m completely taken away. It feels like I’ve been on a journey, both sonically, and within myself. Over the almost eight minutes, I’m left dumbstruck by its sheer dynamic. At this point, I feel it would be remiss of me not to focus in on one specific element, and that is the absolutely exquisite guitar work during the solo. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a guitar performance the way I have here.
As the dying bars fade away, I start considering how to best sum up this experience. The conclusion I’ve drawn is this…
If you have never dipped a toe into the whole occult doom genre of heavy music, but you wanted to give it a try, then Deathbell’s A Nocturnal Crossing would, in my humble opinion, be an incredibly great place to start. A completely enthralling, otherworldly exposé on the genre, somewhat genre defining in fact. While it doesn’t have some of the upbeat jingle jangly elements that others in the field rely on, the actual beauty of this is the darker, harsher moments, such as the guitar passages on The Stronghold And The Archer, that hopefully will leave you hungry for more.
Scribed by: Lee Beamish