Nottingham duo Bismuth, as its name implies, is renowned for its crushing, unflinching take on Doom and Drone. Sophomore album The Slow Death Of The Great Barrier Reef (Medusa Crush Recordings) is largely comprised of the thirty-two minute title track and is as moving as it is difficult, as absorbing as it is challenging.
The first minutes of that track contain little but the ebb and flow of oscillating pedal effects but as gentle guitar strings and lilting siren song join the gathering a life dawns, the sun waking all around. In a ten-minute space where hardly anything happens the listener realizes so much has: sparing drums and cymbals have been introduced, the whole experienced recorded and looped so that the sound suddenly crashes and swells like the tide coming in.
In these polluted times, life brings death so quickly. Just as suddenly comes the flattening chords, the harbinger of doom, Tanya Byrne’s screams evoking the scorching, the bleaching of the coral. It’s a funeral march dictated by Joe Rawlings’ super-slow, titanic stickwork, the eerie bass pedals occasionally squealing as Byrne’s pain ceases, the tension squirm-inducing and near unbearable. As the squall recedes into the quieter, pensive third movement, it becomes the soundtrack to the viewer surveying a scene of abject detritus. These moments duel with more explosions, the bass scouring the stomach walls, the screams ever more harrowing, the sirens eventually returning to lure this staggering achievement to its dénouement.
In comparison, the six-minute ‘Weltschmerz’ is a brief sojourn into emptiness: the fathomless bass rumble and brutal yet hypnotic rhythms clashing with more of Byrne’s scouring yelps to portray the nihilistic weariness the title suggests. Steve Mills of late and much-missed lords of misery The Wounded Kings once decried a popular view that Doom music was the result of dull, unimaginative Neanderthal creatures. Nothing could dispel this myth in better fashion than the ingenious composition and arrangement of ‘The Slow Death Of The Great Barrier Reef’. It’s an amazing creation that belongs in the annals of the genre’s great moments, and serves as a reminder to all of us of the ills we’re bringing to our homes.
8 / 10