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Quercus : Sfumato

Quercus manifest a strange, but brilliant, fantastical world of their own chosen design.

In the spotlight today we have Quercus, a 2-piece Avant-garde Funeral doom outfit hailing from the Czech Republic, and their latest full-length release entitled Sfumato. I shall be honest in saying that (unfortunately) my awareness of this band was only triggered for the first time upon receipt of a copy of Sfumato for this review. It was only then that I found, via a quick Google search, that these guys have been established and operating since 2001 - talk about my living under a rock! Now, however, after listening to this album (incessantly, I might add) on multiple occasions, I shall say this: Sfumato is quite possibly one of the most enlightening albums that I have ever had the good fortune to experience, and quite possibly the most thoughtful and emotionally-provoking album that I’ve listened to this year. This is not just your ordinary standard-quality Doom metal release, far from it in fact. Sfumato is a true work of art and musical craftsmanship rooted in pure, untainted originality.

There are so many levels to this album that it is almost impossible to verbally dissect it in its entirety; any description would barely even scratch its surface. The depth of the music across all facets of the creative process - from structure to thematic vision, expression, harmonic manipulation and communication - is nothing short of brilliant. Sfumato is an album that will take the listener on a turbulent journey encompassing a flurry of emotional experiences, from the bleak to the downright strange. Perhaps that is the word that comes closest to describing this band - strange: their musical creations emanate a non-imposed sense of purity, beauty and sincerity, all of which is securely enveloped in a package of intense peculiarity. The first track on the album, 'Barbarian Nostalgia', serves as an ideal referential undertone for the rest of the album. If you enjoy their opening piece, the rest of the album will certainly not disappoint.

Perhaps Quercus’ most notable trait is their profound ability in building up such a phenomenal atmosphere with their arsenal of sounds. It’s almost as if they are able to physically manifest (through sound) a fantastical world of their own chosen design. This world is difficult to describe in words because of its immense intricacy, however it can be felt most vividly when one is engaged with this album. The combination of extremely intelligent hypnotic plucking sequences, memorable riffs, hellishly-brutal growls, vibrant bassline signatures and creatively solid drumming come together to form a unified movement of indescribable harmony. Quercus also displays no reservations in defying the safe boundaries of Doom metal alone. On Sfumato, the band employs a variety of unpredictable movements between draggy Funeral passages, full-blown old school Death metal bursts, uptempo passages and contemplative plucking sequences. As one moves through the album, it becomes evident that Quercus harbours a deep curiosity for experimentation, particularly with explorations in sound itself. Prominent examples include the use of flutter-like effects in the opening section of the fourth track ‘Night Bathing’ that run in tandem with the drums, or that of the ‘chimes’ present in 'Barbarian Nostalgia' around 7:08 (that which appears to sound like the scraping of a meditation-bowl). Such moments play a subtle yet profound role in contributing to the mothership of atmosphere they have ingeniously crafted. Quercus’ level of musicianship is unrivalled, if not supreme. The force of sound created between this duo is highly impressive and admirable (favourite tracks: 'Barbarian Nostalgia' and 'Mother's Wordfall').

Words only serve their specific function towards a finite point, and that point is now here. If you have come this far, no doubt a spark of interest has been triggered. The band seems to have a mysteriously low-profile presence across the web in contrast to the norm, particularly within the realm of social media. However, one may jump directly on to the Bandcamp page of MFL Records that hosts a digital copy of the album for a modest price of $4. Humbling, considering that this masterpiece of an album is in fact worth so much more. Check them out now, you will not regret it.

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Reviewer's rating: 10/10


Tracklist :
1. Barbarian Nostalgia
2. The Flute In The Sink
3. ...Which Is Lacking
4. Night Bathing
5. Mother's Wordfall

Duration : Approx. 51 minutes

Visit the Quercus bandpage.

Reviewed on 2014-11-20 by Trishay J Trada
Aesthetic Death
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