They Know review by Ivan Tibos for Concrete Web
I admit that Belgium is not exactly the number one country when talking about Funeral Doom Metal; compared to Finland, the Russian Federation, the United States, France or the U.K., to name but a few, Belgium is just a dwarf with very few ‘legendary’ combos. But one of the best-known artists within that very same international scene for sure is Stijn van Cauter, the guy behind the Nulll Records label. This guy is also famous for several solo-outfits, such as Beyond Black Void, Inframonolithium, Gruulvoqh, Desperandum Gothica or Arcane Voidsplitter. And he is – or was – in collaborative projects like The NULLL Collective, The Sad Sun, Wijlen Wij or In Somnis too. For some of these projects you can find a review on this webzine, for several others there is one coming up. But first I want to focus on a recent release by Stijn’s most productive solo outfit, Until Death Overtakes Me.
Until Death Overtakes Me, sometimes also known as UDOM, was formed by Stijn at the very end of last century, and named after a fragment of My Dying Bride’s grandiose song Black God (“so charm whenever I view thee, ‘til death overtakes me in the chase”). It was quite a productive period, with several releases that belong to my all-time faves within the scene. After a five-years hiatus, the project returned in 2016, with some more excellent releases as result. It was also a time for compiling stuff, with Well Of Dreams and Hell & Rain as predecessors. Now it’s time for the third compilation within this series, called They Know, with the sub-title Collected Works Part III: 2018. There is an edition on compact disc, including a very sober two-page booklet, and there is a digital-downloadable version, which includes three bonus-tracks, on top of the nine pieces represented on the CD.
[FYI: in the meantime, a fourth one, Herald Of Sorrow, also exists for your pleasure…]
What can you expect from this material? Those trusted with this project will surely know what’s next to come. The album compiles single tracks that were released in between late Autumn 2017 and Summer 2018, clocking about five quarters of an hour (this goes for the CD-edition; the digital one lasts for half an hour longer than the physical copy). This review deals with the compact disc version, but you can listen to the three additional pieces at the project’s Bandcamp page too.
Monumental, purely massive guitar drones, far away from fast-paced fingerspitzen-speed, go hand in hand with dreamlike, almost esoteric synth melodies, sometimes even sacral / ethereal in nature, supported by slowly pounding drums and subtle basses, as well as the typifying, but ultimately deep growling grunts, joined by some piano intermezzos. That’s it. Thank you for your time.
No, seriously, these are the main ingredients that characterise Until Death Overtakes Me’s approach, eventually resulting in a mighty mixture of melancholic yet convinced Funeral Doom especially, with elements from bleak and harsh Drone, moody contemporary Classical Music, and melancholic and / or obscure Ambient. Some compositions are purely Ambiental in approach, like the somewhat industro-droning piece Hollow Star, by the way. Because of the long-stretched guitar riffing that characterises the better part of the epics, the whole might seem monotonous at first, but the result shows the opposite: a rich palette of sounds, resulting in a voluptuous soundtrack of gloomy darkness and desperation.
There are many possibilities of interpretation and how-to-experience this project, and the compilation series to which They Know belongs offers a clear vision on the frontman’s vision. It’s like an introspective story, ideal at the background when dwelling deep into your own thoughts. Imagine a soundtrack for grief, misery, melancholy, despair or other happy thoughts. But it can be considered an interactive experience too, when listening very carefully to the details, instead of having this passing by like a background story. That’s the well-thought richness that defines both this specific project as well as the vast number of Stijn’s projects, being able to create multi-interpretable Aural Art with a very oppressive, heavy, dreamlike and / or grim ambience.