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Deinonychus : Ode to Acts of Murder, Dystopia and Suicide

Deinonychus return revitalised - unfortunately, with an initial offering that is far more Black Metal than Doom.

After ten years of silence, one of the most notorious bands in Doom returns. Marco Kehren's brainchild started out with a couple of Black Metal releases a little more tortured and unconventional than the norm, until the significant sonic changes of 'The Weeping of a Thousand Years'. What followed was the golden era of the band: a triplet of brilliant albums unmatched in their wretchedness, with the self-titled as the pinnacle release. Their sound reeked of melancholy and pain; the vocals were tortured without any trace of theatrics. Then came 'Insomnia'. I remember being shocked the first time I heard it - though it sounded like the same band, it didn't feel like it. Slower, heavier and doomier, yet it had lost its heart in a one-dimensional sound: the band-defining idiosyncratic vocals had lost most of their emotional impact. The "exposed nerve" emotion, so typical of Deinonychus, was nowhere to be found. Finally, there was 'Warfare Machines': quite simply, a bad album. Marco admitted the obvious truth later - inspiration had simply run dry, and the quick disbandment after it was logical.

Marco continued work on his industrial and martial projects, with a single abortive attempt at resurrecting Deinonychus around 2011. Until now - and what is apparent upon first listening is that 'Ode to Acts of Murder, Dystopia and Suicide' is no pure Doom. Were it any other band, I'd quickly dismiss the album as "not Doom enough"... but this is Deinonychus, and I really wanted to love it. Many years have passed since those four classic albums, fresh and full of emotion, and I've been starved of anything comparable since. So I listened to this album many, many, many times, trying to isolate enough Doom in order to justify it.

To be honest, apart from 'The Weeping...', all Deinonychus albums contain some healthy dose of Black Metal. But the band hasn't played this fast since their first couple of releases, and even back then, 'The Silence of December' featured a pure slow song from beginning to end, something that is missing here. For those that still consider 'Promo 1993' to be the best thing they've done, this will be a real treat. It's obvious that the resurrection of the band was not in vain: you can feel Marco's newfound inspiration, so it's a real pity that it's taken him so far away from Doom.

The album begins and ends with its fastest songs, thus creating a thematic frame. In between there are six tracks that differ mainly by the proportion of fast/slow parts. The songs are more emotionally revealing than on the previous two offerings. The album sounds mature, which unfortunately results in the lack of extreme vulnerability, a trait which was responsible for the emotional impact of the middle-period albums and which made the sound so piercing back then. But Marco is now a grown man, so you cannot really expect an 'Oceans Of Soliloquy Part III' here. Still, we have a heavy and diverse album that sits somewhere between 'Mournument' and 'Insomnia', unfortunately much closer to the latter. It's not as one-dimensional, but still lacks the versatility of past albums where he could alter his vocal style several times in the course of a single song.

The vocals are still what distinguish the band from others - they are really good and they never sound conventional. Though more accessible now, they still show an edgy side, especially on one of the highlight tracks 'The Weak Have Taken the Earth', where they can verge on crying. But that's more an exception to the rule: the norm is for the evident desperation in the voice to channel aggression and not depression. While not as diverse as before, they sound genuine, which is really the make or break aspect - you need to believe in their sincerity. And here Deinonychus succeeds, without question. The immediacy of the vocals, and their feeling, remains, giving an impression similar to witnessing a live performance.

The middle part of the album is where readers of this site will find most interest, starting with the aforementioned 'The Weak Have Taken the Earth’: the most emotional song. That's followed by 'Buried Under The Frangipanis', opening with a great pure Doom riff, and the more monotonous 'Dead Horse', both highlights, featuring very well placed cello-like keys. I particularly like the drug-related lyrics of the latter. Some "blasts from the past" are still to be found - such as the brief subdued and tortured semi-spoken/sung vocals over slow guitar notes found in these songs.

The production is perfect - the sound is heavy and very fitting. Drums and keyboards (the only parts not played by Marco) are solid. Listening to the slow Doom parts is simply bliss. The overall sound is undeniably dark, and the vocals are still improvised in the studio without any rehearsal. Still, you feel this album is not driven by pure heartfelt emotion - as in the past - but rather by a rational aggression, anger and indifference. An ode weighted more to murder and dystopia than to suicide.

The overall pace of the album is a stomping upper-mid-tempo mixing equal amounts of speed outbursts and slow Doom sections. While half the songs are irredeemably fast, the other, longer, half manage to hit that hypnotic feeling where a fast Doom/Black sound can work in a purely Doom context (as with the debut by Ethereal Shroud, for example). But even when it does have a relatively slow underlying melody, the tempo is simply too dominant. The songwriting follows the usual line: pretty simple, yet leaving an impression of something more complicated. This worked perfectly in the past, as the emotional impact overshadowed the simplicity. Unfortunately, it's not always the case here. And this is my main point of criticism - there is an all too apparent lack of proper melodies. Those - present even on 'Insomnia' - are quite absent here, and combined with the fast rhythm (the album seems faster than it actually is), it loses the crucial melancholy which has always defined the band.

As it is, simply listening to the album gives the impression of never-ending pounding drums and chugging guitars. Not the typical Doom repetitiveness that makes you lose yourself in the music, but an assault on the senses that could leave you simply indifferent. Unfortunately, even the slower songs have abrupt fast outbursts that interrupt the flow. Since you cannot immerse in the sound, it's more enjoyable as a collection of individual songs rather than as a whole. It is coherent, as an album, but with a Black Metal leaning - to find the Doom, you need to focus on individual aspects of the music.

In summary: Deinonychus' new album brings back the vitality of the band. But, unfortunately, there's little of interest for the regular doomster here - this round was won by the Black Metal side, and they've got a fantastic album as a reward. If it were reviewed on a different site, the rating would be higher, but here different aspects of the music count, and Deinonychus provides neither enough slow riffs, nor an ample amount of atmosphere and genuine melancholy. On a brighter note, though, the well-received album and renewed interest in the band sparked a reissue of the back catalog (including vinyl versions) by My Kingdom Music. So, let's just hope that next time, inspiration will take Marco back to the barren doomy landscapes he was so good at portraying.

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Reviewer's rating: 6/10


Tracklist :
1. Life Taker
2. For This I Silence You
3. The Weak Have Taken The Earth
4. Buried Under The Frangipanis
5. Dead Horse
6. Dusk
7. There Is No Eden
8. Silhouette

Duration : Approx. 45 minutes

Visit the Deinonychus bandpage.

Reviewed on 2018-01-09 by Klamerin Malamov
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