Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Pendulous - Mirrored Confessions

When I listen to metal, I like to connect my audio system up to a lie detector machine to see whether bands truly feel their lyrics, or if it is all just an act for the sake of aesthetics. Pendulous’ “Mirrored Confessions” is my new standard for complete truth, because the heartfelt music on this EP is completely overflowing with genuine doomy sorrow. This feeling is primarily conveyed through the somber singing of E.R.M., but the entire band works well together to create an emotionally weighty release of slow and solemn metal.

This dirge of an EP essentially has two songs with the first being the most striking. There, E.R.M. belts out spectacular vocals that are morose and carry the dulness of muted emotions rather than a lack of musical inspiration. Having the listener feel that the music’s mood is suppressing emotion rather than emotion being absent from the performance is a fantastic achievement because the same approach could have easily resulted in vocals that appear disinterested. This contrasts Pendulous from much of metal’s “sad” music because the band effectively communicates that mood rather than trying only to embody its dullness. While this particular trad-doom clean vocal style is only one part of E.R.M.’s approach, its nasal and almost off-key style is so powerful that these parts unquestionably become the EP’s centerpoints.

Without that particular vocal style the band may not be as flashy, but is still good quality doom. Smooth oohs and aahs also contrast with death growls and the band matches these changes in intensity by dextrously switching between clean guitars ringing out single notes and crushing stretches of power chords. In pulling away from an utterly heavy wall of doom, the band controls both the pacing and mood through musical variety and tension. Importantly, a strong sense of continuity is pretty clear while the band makes these transitions. Note how the solo in “Reflections” mirrors the riff preceding it and how the melody on “Seeds” is preserved as the band switches from clean to distorted guitars. A less visible, but important, part of the band’s cohesion and doomy mood is J. Spitzer’s ability to drum with both variety and restraint. Making an easy rolling feel out of songs that are 9 ½ and 7 ½ minutes long isn’t easy, yet the percussion here doles out triplets at the ends of riffs over and over without getting boring. This pulsing, along with appropriates fills, combines with the more subdued beats to give the EP enough heft to carry the weight of its slow material.

As a closing note, the 20-something minute EP is bookended by what would seem on paper to be really bad ideas - two spoken word depressive monologues. These monologues are sparse with only light somber background tones/sounds in what is an otherwise unadorned approach. No cackling crows, distant thunder, or heavy vocal processing, just a sad story - and one that feels honest and true because of this straightforward delivery. Immediacy is reinforced in the outro by sounds of bells, clocks, and swishing liquid all to show the passing of time. This is incredibly refreshing where many bands, i.e. dsbm, romanticize negative emotions to the point where it is hard to believe they actually ever felt them. Negative emotions aren’t commodities or fun, they are awful and the band is great for tactfully capturing and communicating that awfulness. These genuine intro and outro tracks help to set the EP’s mood and are worth listening to despite not being particularly musical. Doomy context for an emotive and strong EP.

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