The Dutch doom metal group Officium Triste first got together about twenty-five years ago and counting at this point, and now, they’re back with the powerful December 2019 full-length album The Death of Gaia, which is available via Transcending Obscurity Records. The album packs a feat of extremely intense doom metal, and that intensity is funneled towards crafting a perfectly immersive experience rather than simply piling on the heaviness. The band’s compositions are intricate, featuring ample contributions from violin, cello, and piano, and they’re huge — the final track easily surpasses ten minutes. There’s never a dull moment.
The band build straightforward, hypnotic, and bulky riffing into a deeply moving piece. The first track (called “The End is Nigh”) even includes consistent accompaniment by some of that orchestral string instrumentation, and — in a striking contrast that further elevates the whole piece — the harshness of the vocals never lets up. No matter the devastating outbursts packed into the harsh vocals, The Death of Gaia remains an elevating experience — elevating through an at times torrential fog (that riffing gets intense right away) but elevating nonetheless. The sheer power of these epic strands intertwined is a magnificent piece to take in. Even with the most physically intense of repeated, building riff patterns firmly in place, the confident, forward energy that the band use takes this piece to an especially captivating place.
The album title, art, and lyrical imagery suggest that the band have the limits of this world in mind, and this deep gravity, and the simultaneous beautiful possibility and looming destruction that it holds, shines brightly through this music. It’s a musical reckoning not just with our own mortality but the mortality of the entire world in which we sit. On the second track, the vocalist roars for us to take a look at the world, which is crying and bleeding. When the music slows down a bit on the next track, the experience gets even more personal feeling, and it doesn’t stop there. On the track “The Guilt,” it’s an extremely memorable moment when the lyrics unveil a confession of blame for the pain of another as a a repetitive drum beat pulsates in the background.
Ultimately, the album feels surprisingly emotionally intimate for a heavy doom metal album. It’s an expression of a deep depression, not just in the emotional sense, but also in the sense of getting crushed under the weight of environmental and accompanying interpersonal destruction. The hypnotic riffing and truly just beautiful accompaniment packed on The Death of Gaia get listeners to really take these elements into account.