Genre: Funeral doom metal
Full length: The Last Witness
Format: Digital album
Label: Funere (Armenia), Weird Truth Productions (Japan)
Distributor: Satanath Records (Georgia)
Release date: September 24, 2022
The German multi-instrumentalist Eugen “Gnev” Kohl has been helming many solo projects since the 2010s, including the doom metal project Coven Spell, the atmospheric black metal project Donarhall, the death metal project Necrochaos, the drone/doom metal project Death Carrier and the funeral doom metal project Sinister Downfall that I’ve been closely listening to the past few days. Kohl also runs the Bandcamp platform for Misanthropic Studios where his bands can be streamed.
“The Last Witness” is the third album Kohl has released for Sinister Downfall after “Eremozoic” (2018) and “A Dark Shining Light” (2020), and given his experience and range of styles it’s not surprising how far things have incrementally but steadily things have progressed with this project. This is a release that needs your complete undivided attention to take in while it’s playing. The nuanced professionalism it was recorded and produced with leaves virtually no room for distraction, as it takes hold from the start and relentlessly crushes until it concludes.
Rhythm guitars serve as a poignant and powerful backdrop for a subtle but deepened range of emotions, flooding limitless nothingness with diminished but tangible light of varying saturation. Bass and keyboards accompany this wall of sound with drums sounding distant and isolated, implying the depth and vastness of the universe Kohl creates. The interplay with keyboards, piano and lead guitar spawns something so nightmarish and comfortless it turns out beautiful and majestic to a torturous extent. When it comes to sophisticated, monumental doom metal Sinister Downfall seems to surpass all previous efforts to reach this plateau, metamorphosing into exquisite profoundness.
In some ways, this brings to mind the experimental “imaginative horror” genre that’s getting started on Youtube, movie streaming sites, and several independent film festivals. For example, there is a fleeting rain effect during the piano intro of the first song that fades out with the opening strains. Does this signify our departing from the physical world to enter an inescapable abyss? Each time another nuance of sound and atmosphere appears is likened to being inside a house where all the doors have vanished and everything is subtly changing as if some malevolent spirit is misdirecting your mind and playing tricks on your consciousness.
Those rhythm guitars I mentioned occupying the background, occasionally accompanied by single notes from a lead guitar track, have a somewhat repetitive, singular and almost monotone quality driving the songs toward a place beyond the concept of death. A place that’s unbearably empty and near mindless, as if we have finally reached that long-forgotten realm that always loomed in the distance. Kohl’s vocals, delivered in a typical death growl style, reinforce this feeling and personify the being holding dominion over this dark realm, whose presence is all around you wherever you turn. Equally profound about this album is the way its intensity builds until it finally crescendos and leaves a kind of tranquility in its wake, like a rebirth of sorts.
If you’re into Triptykon (Switzerland), My Dying Bride (UK), Elysium (Australia), and Novembers Doom (USA) you might be interested in checking this and Sinister Downfall’s previous releases out, and keeping abreast of their activities. –Dave Wolff
Eugen Kohl: Vocals, all instruments
1. Souls Enslaved
2. Into The Cold Ground
3. Eyes Forever Closed
4. Marble Slab
5. The Last Witness