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Grulog’s Essential Funeral Doom: SLOW – Dantalion Review

I’m not a particularly big fan of album reviews. As a rule, I consider them a shortcut to thinking – if you need another person to tell you what a piece of art means, what is the purpose of art? It’s supposed to be personal. Having said that, every rule has exceptions.

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     SLOW‘s newest album ‘VI – Dantalion‘, to me, is one such exception. While the band’s music can certainly be enjoyed on a very surface/almost superficial level (it is incredibly well crafted, and an absolute pleasure any fan of truly heavy music will probably enjoy) – I think a better understanding of the themes and undertones of the album lend themselves to a greater appreciation of the art as a whole.

Furthermore, looking at these in conjunction with the artistic/thematic evolution of the band over the span of it’s existence lend a sense of wholeism – to really appreciate where the band are, you have to look at where they’ve been.

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The Basics:

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Band Name: SLOW (Silence Lives Out/Over Whirlpool)
Country of Origin: Belgium
Years Active: 2007-Present
Label: Code 666 Records (vinyl/digipack) / Aural Music (digital)
Metal Archives Entry: https://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Slow/3540375410
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/slowdooom
Myspace: https://myspace.com/slowonline
Bandcamp: https://slowdooom.bandcamp.com/
Members: Déhà (Instruments, Vocals), Lore (Lyrics, Concepts, Bass, Vocals (backing), Arrangements)

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Background:

“I & II are, for me, the first “period” of the band (being instrumental and more drone-ish), III & IV are the second period, and starting from V, we have something else. I can’t stress enough the time spent to control my studio (hence production). It’s, I believe, a normal evolution.”
– Déhà, 2018

On reviewing the band’s discography, you might notice a 2 part thematic pattern – specifically, for the first album in a period/cycle they focus on elemental forces as a vehicle for the narrative. On the second, the band shifts to an esoteric/spiritual/mythological theme.

  • With the first phase of the band, it went from the elemental force of a whirlpool (I – Silence Lives Out/Over Whirlpool) to the more heady unexplored realms of humanity (II – Deeper in the Space, Higher in the Ocean).
  • In the next phase of the band, there was a focus on the elemental qualities of earth (III – Gaïa) which transitioned to a less abstract Greco-Roman conduit (IV – Mythologiæ)
  • The current period of SLOW find the band returning to the elemental power of water (V – Oceans) before utilizing a descent into hell as allegory (VI – Dantalion)

Having established the pattern, it’s worth noting that this isn’t a linear progression – I would liken it more to a Fibonacci.

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Like a whirlpool it expands outwards, but at no point does SLOW cross over and make the same album twice. Even when they re-released “IV – Mythologiæ” due to data loss, they completely remastered it and added a new song – honestly, the album feels a lot more complete.

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     I feel this is worth mentioning here, because ‘VI – Dantalion’ would not be the same album if Lore hadn’t revisited (and worked within) the mythological part of the SLOW thematic cycle.

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Dantalion: Powerful Great Duke of Hell, 71st of 72 spirits of Solomon

“Music is both very personal and universal – I find it important to find the right balance in that. We both want to express our thoughts and emotions, we want to tell our story, but in a way that the listener is able to understand everything and project these feelings onto himself. Making an awesome album has become almost easy nowadays, but making an album that truly touches people with its story and lingers in the mind is a far greater challenge.”
– Lore, 2018

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Before moving into the review of the album itself I think it’s important to ask the question, “Why did they choose Dantalion?”

At first glance, it seems rather obvious. The tracklist itself shows a journey of the soul after death.

  • Descente (descent)
  • Lueur (glow)
  • Géhenne (Hell)
  • Futilité (futility)
  • Lacune (gap/void)
  • Incendiaire (incendiary)
  • Elégie (elegy/lament for the dead)

Given that the soul is descending into the pits of hell, it seems rather natural. But that’s a very specific demon, out of a possible 72. Not the most well known for sure, but he does posses specific qualities that are unique:

Per Wikipedia: “The Seventy-first Spirit is Dantalion. He is a Duke Great and Mighty, appearing in the Form of a Man with many Countenances, all Men’s and Women’s Faces; and he hath a Book in his right hand. His Office is to teach all Arts and Sciences unto any; and to declare the Secret Counsel of any one; for he knoweth the Thoughts of all Men and Women, and can change them at his Will. He can cause Love, and show the Similitude of any person, and show the same by a Vision, let them be in what part of the World they Will.”

Dantalion, specifically, is a demon whose realm is arts and sciences, thought, and emotion. He knows the thoughts and emotions of humans, and can change them at will. Given the fact that Lore has significant creative control over concepts on this album, and taken in conjunction with the aforementioned quote (taken from my 2018 interview with the band) I can’t help but marvel at the fact that she found a demon who embodies the creative goals of the band – to tell our story, but in a way that the listener is able to understand everything and project these feelings onto himself.

In that sense the choice seems a lot more natural than, say, Belial or Ashtaroth – I believe this context can assist the listener in consuming the album more with depth and clarity.

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The Album:

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So, like I mentioned earlier, the titles of the tracks give the listener a pretty good idea where the narrative of the album is going. Beginning post-mortem, the first track transports the listener to a descent (descente) to Hell. Notably, the track is a departure from the norm for SLOW, clocking in at 4 minutes and 43 seconds. Fans of the band’s prior albums will notice they’ve tuned a bit lower for ‘VI – Dantalion’, an aesthetic choice which lends itself well to creating an aural hellscape.

At first, I thought the second track glow (Lueur) might be a reference to a “glimmer of hope” as the soul descends. But after listening to the opening notes, the exact opposite seems to be the case. This is pure sonic despair, SLOW is transporting us to hell and we’re seeing the fiery glow. The dark/light sound dichotomy is certainly still there (something I think the band does very well), with the melodic/light parts highlighting and complimenting the low end/darkness. In particular, the orchestral synth lends grandiosity and a certain gravitas.

 

Next up, the band’s (very appropriate) first single – ‘Géhenne’ (Hell). Another shorter track (just over 7 minutes), Lore’s bass is front and center here. Also worth mentioning: Déhà’s vocals for the entire album are a bit more raw. I’m not sure if that’s a result of mixing, or if he intentionally decided to channel bands like Wormphlegm – but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. It’s fucking awesome.

After arrival in hell, naturally the protagonist recognizes the inherent futility (Futilité) of hope. This is where real despair sets in – and sonically it’s a real turning point in the album. This track is more in the vein of artists like Shape of Despair – without sacrificing that crushing, brutal heaviness that permeates ‘VI – Dantalion.’

Recognition of futility and abandonment of hope lead to a total surrender to the void (Lacune). This track in particular deviates from ‘traditional’ funeral doom territory, and in my opinion displays a lot of the musical growth of the band when compared to the rest of their discography. The track is a lot more dynamic, and why shouldn’t it be? Utter surrender to the void, abandonment of hope – the inherent nothingness of it all. The sparse piano notes opening the piece, Lore’s background vocals, etc all add up to make this one of my favorite tracks on the album.

Incendiaire (incendiary) is slightly more familiar territory for the band.  A bit faster maybe (with some pretty well placed 16th notes throughout), but it’s one I’d recommend to fans of ‘V – Oceans” or ‘IV – Mythologiæ’ right off the bat if they didn’t have time to listen to the entire album in one sitting.

Which brings us to Elégie (elegy) – obviously a lament for the dead. You’ll find no spoilers for this track here, suffice to say it’s both an appropriate title and ending to this monolith of an album.

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Overall Thoughts:

Hands down, this is the heaviest SLOW album to date. Like I mentioned before, they tuned lower. The vocals are grittier. The concepts and lyrics are par for course, which is really quite something – the bar has been set high from the get-go. The use of melody and ambiance contrasts the near suffocating brutality of the low end – creating a fantastic dichotomy.

As with all SLOW albums, this is a piece I would listen to in it’s entirety, the album is just a work of art. Speaking of art – even the fucking vinyl is artisinal.

 

 

You can pick these bad boys up either off the SLOW bandcamp or from the Aural Music webstore. It’s also available in digital and CD format, and there’s a phenomenal t-shirt design from View from the Coffin.

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Grulog’s Essential Funeral Doom: Slow

Every once in a while, you stumble across a musical act that transcends artistic boundaries. To call people like this musicians alone wouldn’t be fair or accurate – they’re artists in the real sense of the word.

I listen to a fuck-ton (actual measurement) of metal – a bare minimum of 8 hours a day while I’m at work (and then, to mix things up, I listen to metal when I go home) – and I’ll tell you, I can count the number of metal bands who fall into the “artist” category on one hand.

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Slow is one of those bands. I’m not here to review any albums – anything worth saying in terms of album reviews has already been done by minds much greater then my own (minds such as Cody motherfuckin Davis of “Metal Injection” and Master of Muppets from “Angry Metal Guy”).

In fact, unless a band approaches me I prefer to focus on the artist and how/why they do what they do. The reader can decide for themselves whether or not to check it out, and enter into the experience without any pre-existing bias.

And for a band like Slow, I feel like anything less would be doing my readers a disservice. This isn’t a “singles” band, this is a “listen to the whole album in one sitting and then contemplate your life” band.

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The Basics:

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Band Name: SLOW (Silence Lives Out/Over Whirlpool)
Country of Origin: Belgium
Years Active: 2007-Present
Metal Archives Entry: https://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Slow/3540375410
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/slowdooom
Myspace: https://myspace.com/slowonline
Bandcamp: https://slowdooom.bandcamp.com/
Members: Déhà (Instruments, Vocals), Lore (Lyrics, Concepts, Bass)

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The Interview:

What is the significance of “Silence Lives Out/Over Whirlpool” (SLOW)

(Déhà) : When I started this project twelve years ago, it was a counter-project for Yhdarl (my other very dark, suicidal-theme band). I wanted something which was metaphorical for what I wanted : a complete drone soundscape (Whirlpool), that is not violent (Silence). Out/Over is the meaning of “it goes everywhere”, if you will. I must admit I was very young at the time, but it still makes sense to me nowadays.

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What made you choose Funeral Doom as the artistic medium for your work in Slow?

(Déhà) : I chose funeral doom because I wanted a way to express feelings that are a bit ‘trippy’, without necessarily being depressive (like album I and II). Starting from III, I was getting a little more influences from death/doom, but I stuck with funeral doom because I simply love this kind of music. There’s nothing more than this.

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Lore did a phenomenal job capturing the essence of the music lyrically with Oceans (enough so that I had difficulty believing more than one person was privy to the project). Even the cadence of the words is perfect. What made you approach her specifically to write lyrics to Oceans?

(Lore) : Thank you.

(Déhà) : Lore did the most perfect job for Oceans. In the beginning, she was just ‘for help’, but after the amount of emotions she put into this album, as well as time and focus, there was no way I could not propose her to join the band. It became so evident to me. Obvious even.
She got it all right at first listen. That’s quite a sign, isn’t it?

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Listening to your work in Slow from Gaia forward there’s definitely a progression in sound, with everything from guitar tone to the application and use of synth. Would you consider that to be due to growth as a musician, access to more and different equipment, a combination of these things, or something else?

(Déhà) : I believe yes, but mainly simply by going further in the music. I & II are, for me, the first “period” of the band (being instrumental and more drone-ish), III & IV are the second period, and starting from V, we have something else. I can’t stress enough the time spent to control my studio (hence production). It’s, I believe, a normal evolution.

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All of your albums with Slow seem to take grand (and universal) archetypes and weave a story into and through them. 

-With Gaia, the synth kind of carried the narritive in place of vocals. 
-With Mythologiæ there’s a progression using mythological (greek, if i’m not mistaken) archetypes to give subconscious form to the journey of an individual.
-With Oceans, the journey/struggle of the individual is at the forefront and the ocean seems to be the metaphor.

My question is: Do you purposefully approach an album from the position of taking a larger theme and weaving a narrative throughout?

(Lore): I can’t speak for the previous albums as I wasn’t involved with the making of them, but with Oceans it was definitely the goal. Music is both very personal and universal – I find it important to find the right balance in that. We both want to express our thoughts and emotions, we want to tell our story, but in a way that the listener is able to understand everything and project these feelings onto himself. Making an awesome album has become almost easy nowadays, but making an album that truly touches people with its story and lingers in the mind is a far greater challenge.

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One constant I’ve noticed on every Slow album is this – there seems to be a thread of hope in all the doom. It manifests itself differently on different albums – on Gaia it was purely the synth, on Mythologiæ it kind of traded back and forth between the guitars and the synth, and on Oceans (interestingly enough) the guitars themselves seemed to carry it.

A lot of Funeral/Death Doom bands seem to focus purely on despair/darkness (which is fucking awesome), and the ones who do try to add that contrast end up sounding cheesy and almost campy. If your albums were a slow moving storm, there’s always a ray of sunlight in the eye. I have to ask, do you add these aesthetic qualities to your music purposefully?

(Déhà) : I believe yes. I like to believe that Slow is mostly narrative, whereas other bands are a simple, crushing smash of despair in the face. Everyone can interpret it in his or her own way. I find Gaïa being insanely positive, for example.

(Lore) : I don’t know… I think it comes naturally rather than we spend a lot of time thinking about and perfecting aesthetics. It is what makes Slow Slow in the first place. Everything is very sincere, it is not merely an image we are trying to create of ourselves. We feel very deeply, both positive and negative feelings, and try to express this in our music. There’s always a spark of light somewhere in the darkness, if you choose to look for it hard enough.

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It seems like, with the advent of the internet, a lot of artists simply write songs until they have enough to fill an album, and then release it. I’m certainly not the first person to notice it, but the “full album” is a disappearing art-form.

With Slow, it seems like your focus is more on writing the album as a whole (musically and conceptually) – where each of the individual pieces is part of a greater narrative and the albums are meant to be listened to in their entirety. Am I imagining this, or is that the case? 


(Déhà)
: This is the case indeed. Every album for Slow, as stated, is narrative and brings forth a story. Gaïa… Well I believe it speaks for itself, as well as Mythologiae and the (definitely greek) content, while Oceans….

(Lore)
: I agree with Deha. We aim to create ‘a whole package’ rather than ‘just an album’ because it gives everyone so much more satisfaction. The songs on Oceans are indeed meant to be listened to as one full song – that way you will truly hear how the story unfolds.

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Is there anything else you’d like readers/listeners to know or to keep in mind in regards to Slow?


(Déhà)
: We are working on album VI right now, which is going to be a little different, but will contain the same crushing doom music. I would dare say that it is be a bit more ‘experimental’.

(Lore)
: That we are very thankful for all the reactions and support we receive from them. Furthermore, what Deha said. We are constructing a small monument as we speak, so keep your eyes and ears wide open.

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So, VI is being recorded as you read this, and Lore is taking over bass duties and arrangements. Fuck yes.

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