Doom is a particularly peculiar branch of the heavy metal tree. Most metal strives towards an empowerment of the individual, and an emancipation of bonds, imposed and self-wrought. Metal is an inner liberation that spreads to the extremities and beyond, entrenching itself as a way of thinking and approaching the world. But not doom, no…doom metal gathers up a hatred of the waking universe and of the conscious body itself, doom simmers it to a critical boil and then immerses itself in this cauldron, wallowing in vile self loathing. In many ways, doom is a pathetic, futile form of expression, incapable of showing a way out of the morass, but to its credit, the style has never aspired to anything but shining a smudged mirror in the face of humanity’s unlikelier aspects.
Dying Embrace are India’s earliest “extreme” metal purveyors, a reputation they have milked to no end since their reformation in 2011. As this compilation suggests, it is a reputation not lightly earned; the band has languished in the shadows of far lesser, unimaginative bands for the better part of twenty years, putting out material of a reasonably consistent quality for the first ten years of its existence before disbanding for nearly a decade. The Era Of Tribulation cuts a swathe through the band’s recordings, presenting the inquisitive listener with a platter of primitive heavy/death/doom metal, genuinely anachronistic and retro before the term was even born.
For all that, the sound of this band has little to do with established notions of extreme metal riffing, generally fluctuating between a middling tempo with ambling power chords, single-note picked melodies, and the bouncing punk rhythms of an Autopsy, spiced up with the occasional tremolo run. Dying Embrace‘s body of work is one of spaces, derivative as it is of early blues-based heavy metal like Black Sabbath; unfortunately the band never really realizes the “doom” in its description, failing to fully exploit the pregnancy of these pauses, instead staying content with the steady mid-paced plod of a studio jam. ‘Grotesque Entity’ , ‘The Passing Away’ and ‘Cromlech Of Hate’ are a few exceptions to this rule, drawing on the band’s early Peaceville influences that are otherwise so sparsely evident, creating pieces urgent in execution and portent.
The unwieldy and somewhat sloppy flamboyance of the lead guitar adds another disjointed aspect to the music. Barely becoming of the ascetic nature of these songs, solos often sound out of key with the music, force fed as set pieces for showmanship with little concern for the overall vibe. Transitions in tempo are jarringly clumsy, the idea of seamless segue entirely missing at times. Rarely does the band succeed in maintaining a uniform mood for the duration of a song, caught up as it is between contradicting impulses: the need to convey melancholy, and a youthful exuberance to thrash out.
Be that as it may, Dying Embrace‘s music was supposed to be a line in the sand for the concept of Indian heavy metal integrity. There was nothing that sounded like them then, and there still isn’t. It is a grave pity then that the same band has contributed in no small way towards selling that ideal down the river.