The age-old saying of patience being a virtue is a cliché, but it bears true in so many different circumstances. In the case of post-metal, this couldn’t be truer, with patience truly being a rewarding experience. Bands under this umbrella like Neurosis, Cult of Luna and ISIS write their albums to really be listened to as albums. Listening to individual songs really doesn’t paint the entire picture of a post-metal album.
Perhaps in the age of iTunes and Spotify, this is why post-metal has remained largely underground, with its mammoth-sized riffs and slow-moving songs that are the musical equivalent of the earth’s continents moving. Whereas a lot of metal focuses on giving the listener memorable riffs and hooks, post-metal instead focuses on developing enormous soundscapes that completely captivate the listener.
Dirge are a French band that have managed to remain very underground throughout their entire career, despite releasing seven albums since their inception in the 1990s. After two albums of Godflesh-esque Industrial metal, the band appear to have completely abandoned the industrial elements of their sound in favour of a more atmospheric approach to sludge metal, similar to fellow French post-metallers Rosetta.
However, where Rosetta assault the listener with bellowing vocals and punishingly heavy riffs, Dirge use the massive soundscapes they have at their disposal to create dreamy atmospheres; it’s safe to say that they focus more on the ‘post’ part of post-metal. This sound was properly established on their 2004 release And Shall the Sky Descend, and ever since they have been quietly releasing albums which have all been very well-received by their fanbase and critics alike. The good news for fans is that Lost Empyrean continues this trend.
The album opener, 'Wingless Multitudes', sets a strong benchmark for the album, with all the elements you would expect from a strong post-metal song plus some added goodness, such as dreamy lead melodies and haunting bell sounds halfway through the track. Overall, the soundscapes of the album are outstanding, and some of the best you'll have heard this side of ISIS breaking up.
There are even some quite memorable riffs that flow throughout the record, such as the first 9 minute song, 'Algid Troy', as well as the titular track, which is also the lead single and a real highlight on the record, with the most memorable melodies and motifs. Additionally, the impressive vocals get a moment in the spotlight on this song; a lot of the time the vocalist will take a back seat to let the instrumentation move the music forward, but on this song they really get their moment to shine in the best way. Another vocal highlight is on the following track, A Sea of Light, which has some truly haunting baritone vocals.
As stated at the beginning of this review, patience is something any listener needs when listening to a post-metal album and this record is no exception. Three tracks on here exceed 9 minutes in length and there isn’t any track shorter than 6 minutes. The patient listener, however, will definitely be rewarded. Whilst Dirge aren’t reinventing the genre with this record (a few times the instrumentation felt quite derivative and predictable), this is still an excellent album and a fine addition to the discography of a band that really should be better known amongst fans of this genre than they are.