Brussels’ own Slow comes bearing funeral doom, brightening the darkened chill to your holiday season.

Release date: December 8, 2023 | Aural Music | Bandcamp | Facebook | Spotify

The last quarter of this year has been somewhat chaotic for this reviewer, gaining my first new job in almost two decades, and barely two months into acclimating to a completely new set of responsibilities, taking on writing for Everything Is Noise in my spare time. It’s been a challenge, but a rewarding one; being exposed to an awesome team of like-minded music geeks, given an opportunity to stretch different writing muscles than I’m used to stretching, and not to mention experiencing a whole host of music that may have passed me by otherwise. That said, I feel like I’ve sneezed, and it’s suddenly the holiday season.

So, in a nice coincidence, the two albums I’ve chosen to review this month – coupled with being on leave for two weeks – are apt in terms of taking a break from the pace I’ve been running at lately. Not only am I working on a review of Slower‘s self-titled debut, but also this record, Abîmes I, by Belgian band Slow. Heh.

Slow began as one of many solo projects by Olmo Lipani – who typically goes by Déhà – and has in turn been joined by Lore Boeykens over their last couple of records. Abîmes I is their ninth release, not including a demo from 2007. Clocking in at a somewhat brief (for doom, and especially for funeral doom) forty-three minutes, the album checks many of the boxes you’d expect. That’s certainly not a bad thing, as you need the droning guitars, the sorrowful keys, the pained, guttural howls, and the glacial but leaden drums as the key ingredients in the funeral doom recipe. The trick – as done expertly earlier in the year by Bell Witch on Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate – is to texture the songs with enough emotion to engage the listener, but not too much as to induce seasonal affective disorder. Slow manage this trick well, and the short run time here speaks to them erring on the side of quality over quantity, and on restraint.

Despite the opening crash and dirge of “Implode”, replete with beastly growls and rich, delayed guitar, there’s a background riff that for me, is somewhat evocative of Giorgio Moroder‘s original film version of “Ivory Tower”, from The Neverending Story score. As such, my inner child, my reptile brain is already wired to enjoy this song and feel the track as a triumphant arrival at a sacred place. Apt, if not what the band intended – I mean it’s not like they had a film-nerd doom fan like me in mind when composing the track.

“Barren” begins with some very subtle guitar (for doom, and especially for funeral doom), but it isn’t long before the keys and drums swell, and the track blasts into life. Just as we settle into the mire, a guitar solo appears like reprieve from an oppressively blinding snowstorm. My own love/hate relationship with solos aside, Slow know just when to employ it, and play it just long enough that it too doesn’t overstay its welcome.  The dirge continues, and then drops out at beginning of final quarter of the track, returning to the subtle refrain from the top of the track, before slamming back into the main riff once more.

The beginning of “Abyss” contains some of the more drone-ish riffs on the records, underscored by chilling and emotionally resonant strings, imbuing the track almost with a sense of loss, or perhaps futility. The only criticism I could level at the album was that the motif of the strings didn’t reoccur; that was a mire I wanted to sink into, but alas, Slow had other ideas. Some sombre piano breaks up the chaos in the final third of the song, before it returns to the processional theme established throughout the track to close it out.

“Collapse” is the longest song on the album, clocking in at almost fifteen minutes. The keys, strings, and guitar solo at the end of the first act build to a crescendo that is, counter to the subgenre, almost exultant – or perhaps that’s just the way doom hits me. The beginning of the final third of the song grinds things to a halt in a beautifully quiet moment of piano, before an apocalyptic crashing return to the main riff, vocals roaring, pained, and encompassing the listener. Then, just as the band are lowering you down for your final rest, the drumming evolves into a last gasp of furious double-kick, the strings swell, and the guitars rage as the track concludes.  What an album closer!

While the album won’t set fire to the subgenre, it does what it says on the tin with aplomb, using brevity and restraint to its advantage, elevating it above being just another doom album. True to the hallmarks of the subgenre, but rich in atmosphere, immersive, and peppered with their own unique touches, Slow have crafted a lean funeral doom record to close out the year with some wonderfully textured glimpses of light amongst the gloom.

Leave a Reply