Label: Third I Rex
As befits a band with a name like Pissboiler, In the Lair of Lucid Nightmares is a pretty extreme listen. Yet whilst the name might conjure mental images of the worst kind of death and grind bands, who need to shock to get attention because the music can’t stand on its own, the Swedish trio instead specialise in the heaviest, bleakest kind of doom metal. Moving at funeral paces, with a weight and heaviness that is almost physical, In the Lair of Lucid Nightmares is a surprisingly intelligent, well-crafted listen, with an emotional power that is as strong as it is surprising.
The song titles alone present plenty of evidence that Ruins of the Past will not be a joyful listen. Along with the title track, ‘Pretend it Will End’ and ‘Cutters’ demonstrate a mindset that is deeply damaged, where the world only exists in different shades of darkness. And yet, when it is at its best, Ruins of the Past is incredibly captivating, cocooning the listener in its anti-light and shutting out the rest of the world in the way that only the very best, most crushing of doom metal can do. The opening title track demonstrates this well, with its obvious heaviness contrasting well – and being complimented by – a clean, mournful guitar lead that adds just the right amount of melody to proceedings. Further in to the album, ‘Pretend it Will End’ takes a different approach, ensnaring the listener with nothing but heaviness, the slowed-down, sludge-like riffs making the listener feel as if they are sinking in to tar and the sweet release of oblivion.
There are points when it doesn’t quite cast its dark spell as it aims to though, and the hold of Ruins of the Past begins to crack. This is most evident on the title track, which begins to lose its grip slightly before the ending section renews its morbid magic. Likewise, the ending drone/noise section of final track ‘Cutter’ goes on for a little bit too long. Yet such missteps are little surprise (and forgivable) from tracks that are, respectively, almost eighteen and sixteen minutes long. With the exception of interlude track ‘Stealth’, all of the songs here are long – but then, they need to be in order to have a chance of working, and for the vast majority of the album, it is difficult to wrestle yourself free from its grip.
Whilst darkness and despair might be the most obvious aspects of Ruins of the Past, repeated listens also reveal something that is perhaps unexpected from music such as this. Given time, a sense of catharsis begins to be found within the music, as the monstrous depths of the album function as challenges faced down and conquered. It is almost as if the album is saying, “if you can survive this, you can survive anything else life will throw at you.” It’s an unexpected quality to take away from an album so steeped in pain and punishment, and yet it’s there; and it’s this which makes Ruins of the Past so rewarding, and gives it lasting appeal after the initial astonishment from just how crushing heavy Pissboiler begins to wear off. For a band with such an off-putting name, Ruins of the Past is a surprisingly intelligent album, and one well worth exploring.
Ruins of the Past is available via Bandcamp, on CD and digitally.