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Who Dies In Siberian Slush : Intimate Death Experience

Who Dies In Siberian Slush follow up the reworking of their debut with another essential, and essentially Russian, full-length album.

As a rule, and despite the quite extensive expansion of the scene over the past 10-15 years, it's been my experience that Russian/Post-Soviet bands frequently tend to be referenced in terms of sounding like European acts rather than being namechecked as establishing themselves in their own right. Which was a valid case once - when the Cold War ended and the Iron Curtain lifted, and those countries started to emerge, blinking into the bright light of a new world order in the early '90s, there was no real dispute that the West had a long head start in the business of open artistic expression. And, to be fair, it then took a while for the scene and the infrastructure and the supporting labels to develop, during which time the fledgling Doom underground had much less of an opportunity to reach out globally rather than locally. None of that's really still true now, though, nearly fifteen years after the launch of what would become the Solitude powerhouse, and everything else which that enabled along the way.

Which brings me to Who Dies In Siberian Slush, who claim the crown of being both the "style founders of Russian Funeral Death Doom" and the first Russian Funeral Death Doom band to be released on vinyl. The former is hard to dispute: although the debut album didn't arrive until 2010, the band - in solo form - actually began in 2003, with a significantly heavier, slower and more brutal sound than any of their pre-millennial counterparts. They didn't necessarily earn much attention, or high praise, for that: I've read reviews - even on this site - that considered their approach to be musically somewhat basic, unsophisticated, and (inevitably) compared to various European bands.

Well, that may be true, but I'm a listener rather than a musician, so I...well, actually, I don't care all that much about that side of things, if I'm honest. If a lifetime of rock and metal has taught me one thing, it's that virtuoso brilliance can be made as dull as dishwater, while basic rock'n'roll simplicity can deliver the most visceral of experiences. It's all down to context, and whatever on-paper merits or demerits might have been levelled at WDISS along the way, they have consistently evolved and improved their sound with each release. Some of that's been down to a changing but increasingly stable, and more widely-talented, line-up, some of that has been simply building on band founder ES's original strengths - primarily, the ability to write and deliver powerful, compellingly dark lyrics with harsh and cavernous conviction, something which also reinforces his talent for managing the balance between the melodic and the dissonant, creating a frequently beautiful yet morbid atmosphere.

'Intimate Death Experience' follows on from 2017's reworking of their debut album, and does a little of that itself by including new versions of the two tracks ('And It Will Pass' and 'Tomb Of Kustodiev') from their 2014 'The Symmetry Of Grief' split with My Shameful. Both of which, it must be said, are improvements on the originals. They share quite similar recording line-ups, for the most part, and the versions aren't so much radically different as more polished, better arranged, and presented with more confidence, particularly in the way the more unusual instruments - flute and trombone - are blended into the music. That's a motif continued throughout the album: the recording and mixing (this time at Skylark Studios in Moscow) and mastering (once again by Greg Chandler) have clearly yielded significant benefits in fleshing out a more mature soundscape.

Brief opening instrumental 'Through The Heavens' gives some idea of what to expect: a brassy, off-kilter carousel-waltz styled dirge led by keys, trombone and flute, underwritten by a chunky, clattering bass and shot through with knifing guitar. Again, recurring motifs well-suited to this return to the more Funeral-paced roots of 'The Bitterness...' rather than the raw and more Death/Doom inclined 'We Have Been Dead...'. You'll find less of the rough-edged abrasiveness present in either of those, though the vocals - almost exclusively in Russian, this time - remain guttural and gruffly impassioned, and the music, despite a certain lush romantic tinge, is quite capable of presenting both light and shade, culminating in the surging, tempestuous crescendo as 'On Different Sides' draws the album to a close.

Packaging-wise, credit to Frozen Light for a neat, yet tastefully understated, A5 digipack offering themed in funereal black and brown, and with a thick booklet. My copy even arrived with an obi, though that may not be standard (I would guess from the size it was intended for the alternative jewelcase version). Sadly, the lyrics are printed in Cyrillic only - though my incomprehension of those is more the fault of the woeful state of alternative language teaching within the UK than anything I could blame band or label for!

Overall - well, returning to the original theme: you could offer up some comparisons. It's a little like more-prolific contemporaries Abstract Spirit in some places, a little Shape Of Despair, My Shameful and Swallow The Sun in various others. But, taken as a whole, what resonates is this quote from the obi: "This music is absolutely Russian spiritually, sounding like a last, long farewell, painted in agonizing colors...". Not that I can vouch for how that would be appreciated in its true motherland, but speaking as an outsider, I do feel WDISS conjure a distinct feeling. It's something personal, fierce yet gloomy, fatalistic and sometimes fatal, which has at least as much in common with very different-sounding Russian bands such as Autumn People as it does with any Finnish and wider European genre equivalents. 'Intimate Death Experience' sums up that feeling, both in title and when listening, and it makes me think it's perhaps long past time that WDISS joined the list of bands you really should be comparing against, rather than being one which needs any sort of 'sounds like' introduction.

My only caveat - I don't know that I'd rate this more highly than the reworked 'Bitterness Of The Years That Are Lost'. They both come from the same sort of direction, and this is a further refinement of the style, but 'Bitterness...' does have the advantage of being a long-standing and more familiar favourite. However, I do think they're equally excellent and essential contemporary releases, and thoroughly recommend adding both to your collection.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Through The Heavens
2. And It Will Pass
3. Remembrance
4. The Tomb Of Kustodiev
5. Solace
6. On Different Sides

Duration : Approx. 40 minutes

Visit the Who Dies In Siberian Slush bandpage.

Reviewed on 2019-04-03 by Mike Liassides
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