ARTIST: DOWNFALL OF GAIA
TITLE: ETHIC OF RADICAL FINITUDE
LABEL: METAL BLADE RECORDS
WORDS: BECTON SIMPSON
One of the immediate elements that stands out on Downfall Of Gaia’s fifth studio album ‘Ethic Of Radical Finitude’ is the choice of song titles and the way they’re ordered, to perfectly construct a little mini poem, a poem which essentially sums up the entire theme of the album: “seduced by the grotesque illusion of being, we pursue the serpent of time, guided through a starless night as our bones break to the dance of withering violet leaves”. Alright, maybe not the bones breaking to withering leaves part – that’s just pure poetry – but the first section is a running theme explored on the album, as lead vocalist Dominik Goncalves dos Reis of the German four-piece explained:
“I guess everyone in life is trying to find this special ‘warm’ and safe place, their special place. To feel ‘home’, to feel ‘safe’, to feel satisfied…[life is] a book filled with chapters that can only be closed with death…You can also see the good things in it. It’s the only thing that makes the time you have worthy since without it everything would be forever, and nothing would have any value. No one would try to use their given time, no one would ever be on the hunt for their special place. It would be meaningless.”
Interesting. And dark. As is ‘Ethic Of Radical Finitude’ although we would expect nothing less from extreme metallers Downfall Of Gaia. It’s also, however, oddly uplifting, offering a new reflection on life and death one might not have considered before, and a reason for a positive outlook.
“offering a new reflection on life and death one might not have considered before, and a reason for a positive outlook.”
Starting with the quiet and eerie instrumental ‘Seduced By’, it’s a perfect opener to the album which initially lulls the listener into a false sense of security soon interrupted by impending doom and rising tensions as the track builds and builds, the drama and excitement reaching fever pitch before bursting into the first full song, ‘The Grotesque Illusion Of Being’. Here, we are delivered an epic onslaught to the ears which only teases of the theatricality to come, with a melodic guitar riff and some grueling growling vocal delivery.
Never a band to put out a two and a half minute song when a nine and a half minute one will do just nicely, there’s invariably some extended and long tracks on the album, most notably ‘We Pursue The Serpent Of Time’ and ‘Guided Through A Starless Night’. These are the two middle tracks on the album, which could be described as the peak or the real meat of the album sandwiched between the other lead in and lead out tracks. Allowing time for a slow build up with some thundering drums and technical percussion soloing, ‘We Pursue The Serpent Of Time’ makes for some satisfying dark metal and ticks all the boxes. It has the rhythm section sounding like a machine gun at times, it has the soaring, echoey guitars swirling round the mix, and it has the dirty, pain-drenched screams over the top cutting through. It’s worth noting the production on this album, courtesy of Hidden Planet Studio, Berlin by Jan Oberg, and Backroom Studios in New Jersey by Kevin Antreassian (of Dillinger Escape Plan), is second to none, and makes the entire listening experience more immersive and enjoyable. This isn’t the kind of album you’d want to put on and have in the background, you need to really listen in order to appreciate the beauty and depth of the different layers of sounds so cleverly interwoven with one another.
“the band are pushing the boundaries of their own style and genre, continuing to experiment and develop their sound”
The delicate guitars on ‘Guided Through A Starless Night’ are beautiful and striking, the clean sound resonating warmly underneath the spoken word section of the song in the final two minutes. The wonderfully delivered poetic lyrics are supplied by the band’s friend Mers Sumida of Black Table and serve to deepen the reflective mood and provide a small break for the listener by dipping the intensity into thoughtfulness, but this chilled out vibe created is soon broken by the following song ‘As Our Bones Break To The Dance’, a guitar and drum driven track which picks up the pace again.
Ending on final opus ‘Of Withering Violet Leaves’ which treats us to more eerie spoken word sections over haunting guitars after another extended and dramatic build up, it’s safe to say ‘Ethic Of Radical Finitude’ is a pretty epic album which will sit well with the rest of Downfall Of Gaia’s back catalogue. Both new fans and old will find something to enjoy here and it’s clear the band are pushing the boundaries of their own style and genre, continuing to experiment and develop their sound.