Downfall of Gaia have consistently delivered high-end post black metal since first coming together in 2008. They have rarely dropped the baton since then and in Ethic of Radical Finitude, their fifth album, they have once again shown their command over this most invigorating and inspiring musical genre. Combining atmospheric sequences with more impassioned, almost painfully executed barbed attacks, on their latest album the Germans have if anything upped the melody quota, albeit alongside occasionally visceral outbursts.
Having been led in to their dark underground lair by the solemn intro “Seduced By,” Downfall of Gaia reveal their outer layer on the second number, “The Grotesque Illusion of Being.” While vocalist, Dominik Goncalves dos Reis, almost obliterates everything with his red-raw vocal cries, these are mixed in with some lighter grooves that at their most expansive sparkle like the stars above.
The frontman has referred to these new songs as a journey ‘with emotional ups and downs’. Let’s just say that’s something of an understatement. This is more of a white knuckle ride at times with tensions pulled uncomfortably taught, leaving you never entirely sure as to when the release button will be pushed.
Ethic of Radical Finitude features two tracks that narrowly fail to brush through the 10-minute line, the first being the epic “We Pursue the Serpent of Time”. A heavy low-slung intro gets things underway but before there’s not time to get too relaxed as a blastbeat explosion ups the ante against some seriously sharpened riff cuts that threaten to sweep your feet from under you. The song takes on a moodier dimension with some spoken word overlays but Dominik’s demanding cries are always close by, unrepentant and spitting fireballs like some kind of demonic dragon. Midway through, solitude casts its peaceful shadow once more as Downfall of Gaia take a few steps backwards, granting their finely picked instrumental flair the freedom to breathe.
“Guided Through A Starless Night” has a majestic feel to it, with melodies working sumptuously together as though the planets have almost perfectly fallen into alignment. This softened intro duly explodes like a comet though once Downfall of Gaia inject the rocket fuel, the mood instantly shifting to something altogether more hostile and dangerous. Yet even within the astrological mayhem an edifying groove provides a backbone sturdy enough to lift an ox. Some hollow spoken female vocals over a repetitive drone gives things a particularly cold ending, especially as the prevailing subject appears to be that of death.
After possibly the fiercest track in “As Our Bones Break To The Dance,” in which no quarter is asked or given, Downfall of Gaia sign off with an almost gothic like “Of Withering Violet Leaves” which carries a hint of the Sisters of Mercy or even My Dying Bride.
Having already caused earth tremors with their last two albums, Aeon Unveils the Thrones of Decay and 2016’s Atrophy, Downfall of Gaia have successfully reasserted their claim to a seat at the top table of Euro post black metal. How high have they raised the bar? Well, stand on a chair and you may still not spot it.
Downfall of Gaia are on tour with The Ocean in March.