Herod’s February 15 Pelagic Records release Sombre Dessein feels magnificent. On a base level, the seven tracks are sonically huge, but the band pull off nearly breathtaking feats via their towering creations. Rather than simply crafting a stoic wall of noise or utilizing a predictable format, their music feels like a collaborative and immersive experience. The sonically demanding songs feel like they aren’t easily categorized genre-wise at all, which just underscores what an impressive feat the band have pulled off. A range from doom to sludge textures makes an appearance, all of which gets bound together by a sort of incalculable, driving energy that knocks musical conventions — and listeners, if they’re standing in the way — sideways.
Although the music does pack a physical punch, its force doesn’t only permeate on that level. Thanks in part to the lyrical themes and also to the very strong “narrative” way in which the music itself is presented, Sombre Dessein feels like a product of an effort to come to terms with what could be perceived as our utter insignificance in the big picture of the universe at large. Compared on a simply physical level — our planet itself dwarfs us, and more broadly, whether we live or die, the universe continues.
That’s a lot to deal with, to say the least. Herod’s newest record doesn’t necessarily feel like it provides many — if any — final answers about what we “should” do with our existences here; instead, Sombre Dessein feels like a bombastic picture of what we are doing. In a perhaps weird way, it’s like a memento mori meditation, meaning a reminder that one day, we shall die. Coming to terms with not just our mortality but the hugeness of we tap into while we are alive (via means like Sombre Dessein) can have wide-reaching, positive effects — some of which hide in the shadows of the new Herod record, almost begging to be pulled further out into the open.
The band start at least somewhat down that path, easily employing doom-infused, “slow” passages.
Although what the overall record sparks feels dramatic — if you listen to the music, you’ll find that it’s fitting. The songs feel like a massive metal opera of sorts, diving into almost surprisingly forceful and beautifully layered and complex passages with ease. Like most any well-constructed production, there are a number of different ways in which one could appreciate this record, including via simply looking at the technical prowess the band display via being able to harness this energy without it losing its force or meaning.
In other words, Sombre Dessein is a gift that keeps on giving.
Listen below via Bandcamp