There are certain albums which come along at the right time, albums which just make sense, fit the personal or cultural zeitgeist, albums which for reasons beyond comprehension, the listener repeatedly returns. These are albums which you ”get” (indeed, sometimes “don’t get”, but that is a conversation for another time) on the first listen but continue to share their depths over years. However, as we age an accumulation of “taste”, habits, peculiarities and other listening idiosyncrasies occurs. We also get expedient, cleverly and evenly bluntly, brutally categorizing works into genre, falling back onto the zeitgeist instead of our ears and reducing ourselves to the oversaturated “like” button. Down’s first album Nola is one such album in my collection. Far more than the sum of its parts (Corrosion of Conformity/Crowbar/Pantera/Eyehategod), Nola is a work of love, life and the leaf. As tough as it is fluid and melodic as it is bleak, from the psychedelic cover art to the photo of the band members walking through a cemetery in the late afternoon. Even today, Nola continues to stir my musical fire as I misattribute certain melodies, phrases or rhythms to particular band members.
In this age of unprecedented and unnecessary speed even when a good album, let alone a great or even excellent one comes along, it is almost certainly superseded within moments. Before we have listened to the sample tracks available online our aural gaze is being pawed at, appealed to from another direction.
This month (April 24) Pestilence’s Doctrine went on sale and I have been trapped in its claws since. Aside from the miasma of F# riffer madness, clever but subtle syncopations, outright blast beat abandon, bass playing reminiscent of DiGiorgio with Death, Spheres era guitar synth atmospherics, uneasy low register (anti)harmony and vocals which menace equally with their tone as with their content, there is the production. Santura does for Pestilence what he did for Triptykon (huge guitar, powerful drums and audible bass) and should arguably be the standard across the genre. If you have yet to hear it, let me put it this way: On doctrine, there are two eight-string guitars tuned to low F# and a seven (not a misprint) string bass, tuned a whole octave below that. That dear reader is bass in your face. And yet, the bass guitar is always audible, clearly defined and an excellent contrapuntal harmonic foil to the churning guitars.
Amid the pastiche of the metal present, Doctrine is somewhat out of place. It is neither explicitly technical, nor “brutal” by the ever-shifting standards set by the nerd elite. Its compositional structures are of a space and time obviously not “now”. All of which make this album perfect.Available now, on CD, or hang in there for a month or so for a reasonably priced vinyl release.