Usnea - Portals into Futility
From the albums opening solemn riffs and haunting choral chanting to its final resounding denouement, USNEA’s “Portals into Futility” traverses a plethora of refreshing Doom Metal ground.
The opening track “Eidolons and Increate” sucks you right into a deeply morose mood, the sounds build to a crescendo while soon after screeching vocals cut in that sound of complete agony. The track stomps its way into one of my favorite sections at about 5:17 of this track. The guitar chugs a heavy over driven doom riff and continues pummeling with some seriously evil sounding pinch harmonics resonating along side these trudging behemothesque riffs. Like most doom tracks this one clocks in at just over 11 minutes, but not one second of it feels like it out stays its welcome, much like the rest of the record.
In fact out of the 5 songs and 56 minutes of record run time, nothing ever feels repetitive or like it lingers too long on one riff or passage. What this albums does exceedingly well is encapsulate the mood and feeling of complete hopelessness and unrelenting dread.
The next track “Lathe of Heaven” opens on a soft note much like the previous track, slightly over driven guitars build the opening moments while clean melodic guitar overlays in such a effortless confluence. And then all hell breaks loose as once again an elephant stomping riff of massive proportions comes barreling through the once soft and morose landscape of those building moments. The harsh demonic lows commit perfectly along side these opening moments as the song gives way to a much more fluent mid pace as the lows relent to the raspy shrieks of what almost sounds like pure agony while nihilistic lyrics are spouted out such as “Nothing endures, Nothing is certain, Nothing is the portal, existence is Nothing.”
In fact lets talk about the lyrics to this record for a moment, the band interweaves current real world problems while pulling inspiration from dystopian sci-fi fi novels. One of which is a personal favorite being, Phillip K. Dick’s “Valis” novel. The lyrics speak of oppression, gods, war, capitalism, radical ideologies, losing ones mind, and DUNE! Such a vast array of topics delicately and brilliantly interwoven into these carefully crafted songs. Its easily another strong point about this record.
The 3rd track “Demon Haunted World” opens with a very ethereal lead guitar intro that reminds me somewhat of an Atlas Moth track. Which is not a bad thing at all. It gives the track a completely different mood and feel from the preceding two. The vocals vacillate between extreme lows and those shrieking agonizing howls. This track adopts a slower pace than the previous tracks and encapsulates that impending sense of dread much more. The lyrics to this song are inspired by “The Handmaids Tale”
From here we move into the trudging doom laden track “Pyrrhic Victory” lyrically this is my favorite track as it is about one of my favorite novels, as previously mentioned, Phillip K. Dick’s “Valis” You almost feel buried under the weight of these riffs as they just slowly pummel and lumber across the opening minutes of this song. The track comes crawling to a lethargic pace mid way through while it still carries that same weight just with a different accompanying mood. It’s one of those moments where it feels like being at a funeral. When out of nowhere the track shifts into full on ominous and bleak with its closing moments of pure heaviness as the riffs just unrelenting pummel.
The final track “A Crown of Desolation” begins with a brief and beautifully soft moment of piano and melodic riffs before jumping head first into desolation. The vocals depart in an erratic way on this final track as a haunting mid range chant intertwines with those desolate shrieks of misery. Most of the guitars ring out one solid chord progression over long periods of time, it feels like your classic doom song, but at the same time doesn’t feel generic or overused in any way. Oh, did I mention this song is about Frank Herbert’s “Dune”? Because it is, and you almost feel like you’re on the desolate desert planet of Arrakis itself with how the songs bleak and dreary guitars give life to a fictional world. The song closes out with clean harmonious guitars that seem to have layers upon layers while clean singing vocals drift across like desert winds, slowly but surely taking you to the inevitable soul crushing denouement of the finality of this record.
If you haven’t heard of this bands previous two records and this is your first foray, I highly recommend seeking out their discography as well as also buying their new record out now through Relapse Records.
I can’t say enough good things about every moment of this record as it was a surprise release to me. You can tell the band put a lot of work and effort into the song crafting and lyrical content and it is going to be high on my year end list for 2017 for sure.
“Portals into Futility” Gets 9/10