The Fifth Alliance ‘Death Poems’ CD/LP/CS/DD 2015

The Fifth Alliance 'Death Poems'It has taken The Fifth Alliance about 2 1/2 years to deliver a follow up to their highly acclaimed record Unrevealed Secrets Of Ruin, but here it is. A new effort from the Dutch ensemble to further lose themselves in doomed sludge in just four songs on Death Poems. Let’s see what has changed.

The cover really tells you a story already. Where the previous one had an image of nature, this is a shapely piece of art in the form of a transformed human shape. The sound does seem more sculpted and controlled, compared to the previous release. The good thing is that this is definitely a continuation and a growth from the point where the band left off, the bad thing is that you don’t get the same album but something that feels and sounds different. One would argue that’s a good thing, but tell that to an AC/DC fan.

Your Abyss makes it clear that the hardcore roots of the band have been all but stripped away from the music in favour of creeping sludge and pummelling doom. The slow, gnarly advance of the guitars is building up a constant tension that never really explodes, keeping the listener on edge for a staggering eleven minutes. The music builds up gradually, gentle guitars set the mood and vocalist Sylvia Berger demonstrates the other side of her vocal skills as in the distance haunting, gentle vocals sound. The song then lurches forward into a more heavy, but always slow trod, with guitars soaring and mournfully riding the wave created by the crushing rhythm sections.

The track is followed by Fall Of Taira, a reference to the Genpei War in medieval Japan, where the Taira clan fell and never rose again. This story is told with lamenting guitars, distortion lingering for a moment before the strings are struck again. The vocals are intense and so is the music, when the song really picks up its pace. The droning wall of sound overwhelms even the bass lines and fills the song with foreboding. Much different is the sound of the title track, which slowly lumbers forward, with a feeling of melancholy and grief. Sinking into that dark feeling, the guitars just linger after they have their say. The vocals are contorted shrieks, difficult but full of expression and help twist the song around into jagged, sharp riffs that express a determined forward motion. The subtlety with which the band builds up and then forms, shapes and twists the little details of the tracks and is what makes this such an attractive album.

In a way there’s a minimalistic streak to the bands approach to the music. Never a note too much, never a word screamed with more force than necessary and that is exactly why it all feels so balanced and controlled, but still powerful like short, direct punches in the gut. The fingerpicking guitar play of closer Dissension is in a way representative of that. Let the sound dwindle down fully before hitting the next note, then take the time to build up before the droning tones come in and then the song unfolds. You barely notice when the drums enter the fray with minimal blast beats, adding that tiny detail to the song. Ethereal guitar play combined with a droning rhythm is all the track needs. Then there’s the explosion, a short burst that is just enough to show the force and urgency the band needs to express to impress.

Death Poems shows a band that wants to outdo itself and succeeding in that completely. This is one for the year lists of those who have a love for the less is more approach.

Label: ConSouling Sounds (CD) | WOOAAARGH (LP) | Grains Of Sand (LP) | Dingleberry Records (LP) | Monomentum Collective (LP) | Smithsfoodgroup DIY (LP) | Vleesklak Records (LP) | Diorama Records (CS) | Breathe Plastic Records (CS)
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter

Scribed by: Guido Segers