Dirge – Elysian Magnetic Fields

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Published on: June 27, 2011

The album begins with a screech of droning feedback; it’s painful, tinfoil on teeth. Then, a shape begins to resolve itself out of the static, a pattern of sound starts to coalesce. The initial blast of noise puts one on edge and then, as the sound begins to order itself, the listener is coaxed into relaxing, gradually giving up their guard.

Elysian Magnetic Fields is an album that both threatens and soothes. The pace of the album is positively tectonic, which isn’t to say it is unbearably slow, but rather that it moves with a kind of geological inevitability, like a glacier crawling across the landscape. “Obsidian” and “Falling,” in particular, work at a pace that simultaneously conveys the immense labour of forward momentum and the unstoppable force it generates. There are some songs, like “Sandstorm,” that make you feel like they could crush you if you didn’t get out of the way fast enough. Impassive as a mountain, Dirge wouldn’t even notice you ground to powder beneath their sonic weight, so you’d better pay attention.

The rhythms they employ have a distinctly organic feel to them; they mimic the throbs of a heartbeat, the draw and release of breath or a body rocking back and forth. This contrasts beautifully with the distorted, overtly mechanical sound of the guitars — this is music sung by cyborgs. Speaking of: the vocals range from harsh, metallic screams to mumbled, breathy whispers. Some of them are gentle, but none are comforting. Elysian Magnetic Fields never lets its listeners off the hook. This is an album you strain to hear, that forces you to reach for it.

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