Achintya Venkatesh reviews the compilation album from Dying Embrace titled Era of Tribulation
‘Era of Tribulation’ is a compilation that comprehensively chronicles the various releases of the band spanning the 90’s to the early 2000’s. Despite the amalgamation of various releases, the band exhibits little to no stylistic evolution across the compilation and this is nothing but a good thing in this case. The entire album, if one ignores the fact that the tracklisting for the self-titled demo and Grotesque EP overlap, essentially feels like a monolithic experience as opposed to a conventional compilation record. Jimmy Palkhivala’s axe-work is simplistic and doomy in an exaggeratedly aggrandized manner, and the general mood of the riffs presents itself in a manner that induces a feeling of enjoyability, as opposed to specifically seeking to create a foreboding atmosphere. Each riff is unique and stands out due to their sheer bluesy candor, while still maintaining their luridly sinister overtones. The lead work has a very free flow to it, but is not devoid of technical adroitness and as already mentioned has a blues-like bearing to the treatment, perhaps a direct nod to the band’s 70’s Sabbath-ian and Thin Lizzy influences, but in production values a little spasmodic and removed from its rhythmic base.
Vikram Bhat’s vocal treatment has a grating texture, palpably propelled by the production shortcomings of the recordings and could be deemed akin to the exaggerated sense of dread as in the cheesiness of a yesteryear horror flick, but also weak in the sense they lack the booming quality and volume of other vocalists in the context of a conventional death/doom vein such as the Peaceville pioneers, and often descend into a more tepid quality very frequenly. On the other hand, Jai Kumar’s bass attack accentuates both the riffs and the fuzz-laden ambience, while Daniel David’s sticksmanship is appropriately measured according to the riff’s pacing.
Most tracks are doomy indulgence but with a palpable propensity for the jammy and blues-y sense of compositional nuancing, and yet tracks such as ‘Cromlech of Hate’ impression up one as if they were the band’s attempt at an exaltation to the likes of Autopsy. If one would have to make comparisons, one could look at the relative percussive dynamism of the songs as something inspired by early Paradise Lost – never outright blasting yet always active, with an audible propensity towards blues-derived song writing tendencies and an overall jammy flow of compositional evolution. Percussive sprightliness is clearly found far more at the genre’s roots and earliest practitioners (‘Lost Paradise‘ by Paradise Lost is an obvious example) than the manner in which the genre evolved thereon in this regard, being far more stripped down and lumbering. But such comparisons are quite honestly redundant because the band truly succeeds in forging an immensely unique sound for themselves, but its subject to debate how “fun” one in our doom.
The production is appropriately grainy and crude, not in a fashion that causes aural abhorrence but a punishing gratification driven by its organic sound, and of course serves as a vector to further reinforce the attempted ominousness of the songs. The artwork and inner sleeves deserve commendations as well and are very well conceptualized. In essence, the band successfully conjures a murky potpourri of bluesy heavy metal-induced doom metal. All the songs are quite engaging in the sense that the band perpetually throws in illuminating song-writing concepts who’s charm lies in their evanescent and melody-driven sense of straightforward enjoyability. Perhaps the band is being self-defeatist in this sense, betraying the roots and essence of the genre, but they also usher in a buoyancy and amusement in this broad stylistic mould, going for something that is far more “fun”, at the risk of repeating myself, as opposed to creating moods that are genuinely dismal. It’s good for what it is, and certainly an excellent look at the beginnings of the mixed-bag metal scene that characterizes India.