Depressed Mode – Decade of Silence


Finnish symphonic metal miserablists, Depressed Mode, might have the most literal album title of the year. Their last outing was back in 2009, when Fleshgod Apocalypse were still in their infancy and Septicflesh one year into the aftermath of their genre-defining Communion album. Now they’re back after thirteen years and main composer, Otto Salonen, has a decade’s worth of impenetrable doom metal riffs and dramatic string flourishes to unleash on a new audience. He’s also perfected his good cop/bad cop routine on the evidence of the band’s third LP.

You can always expect a dramatic start to a symphonic metal album, and Depressed Mode ensure that no keyboard drone veers from the sinister and no French horn remains inactive in the opening minute of ‘Death Walks Among Us’. It sets the scene for a contemplative despair of doom metal, but Salonen surprises us with a precision-blade attack of crunchy triplet riffs and double-kick accents before he exercises his blood chalice vocals. Did he always have the invigorating Devin Townsend-esque baritone pipes to back up his morbid death metal enunciation? You expect My Dying Bride, but he gives us Fear Factory’s aggression and Triptykon’s unique pathos. This is not in the comeback script, yet it’s most welcome.

Fans of Finnish funeral doomsters, Shape of Despair, might lament that Natalie Koskinen is no longer the female voice of Depressed Mode, but the good news is that Fleshgod Apocalypse’s Veronica Bordacchini signed up for the role last year. Her operatic tenor range gives ‘Endless November’ an added texture in support of Salonen’s grisly lamentations, but it’s the unity of their voices in clean mode that enflames this song. Teemu Heinola’s guitars rip through the tension like night-vision goggles in search of prey. Listen to the change of pace when the rhythm section embraces a cerebral Philip Glass pattern of galloping scales. The way Bordacchini opens up new vistas of colour will remind you of the sorrowful magnificence of Paradise Lost’s exquisite Gothic album. She’s at it again in the enthralling, ‘As the Light Dims’, but this time she projects her voice with a wider chasm between lungs and microphone, like a person suspended in a virtual reality world. Salonen’s careful piano passages in this composition reappear towards the end while you’re wondering if he’s heard of American darkwave legends, Lycia. On this evidence, he revisited his Type O Negative and Christian Death records as inspiration for Decade of Silence.

With such a long hiatus, you can forgive Depressed Mode for including every single idea on their third album, but one hour and six minutes will test your patience. The swirling strings and circular guitars at the beginning of ‘Serpents’ lack nothing in might and crunch and thrive on a heart-wrenching dual vocal harmony. As track number seven, this would be a fitting way to end the record, but they persevere with a twelve-minute slog of death-doom meditation and haunting piano drips on closing song, ‘Aeternus’. The listener’s endurance levels mean nothing to them at this point, yet the smart move would be to save the last two compositions for a future EP.

It’s refreshing to hear a metal album that homes in on the type of ubiquitous guitar distortion and simple chord choices that elude many artists in today’s climate. Depressed Mode could have redirected their efforts to a drier post-metal template of aggression, but their preference for the drop-tuned crunch of Strapping Young Lad is a gamble that works. ‘Dissociating the Extinguished Mind’ is hostile enough to scare you but enchanting enough to earn your captivation. You can’t resist the nocturnal charm or imagine it in a better setting than a dark room illuminated by natural moonlight.

Decade of Silence reminds us that Depressed Mode are still a serious force in the Finnish metal scene. Let’s hope the next ten years see more activity from them.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 06/05/2022

Record Label: Inverse Records

Standout tracks: Death Walks Among Us, Endless November, Serpents

Suggested Further Listening: Shape of Despair – Return to the Void (2022), Strapping Young Lad – Alien (2005), Hand of Kalliach – Samhainn (2021)