Featuring previously unreleased material from four Chilean bands, the bulk of the material on ‘4Ways To Die’ would possibly seem fairly ordinary if approached individually. However, by taking bands that each approach a doom and blackened doom riffs in a different ways and placing their DIY works together, for doom metal buffs, this compilation could be the mother of all split releases.
The most epic of all, if not the album’s best band, Goethya only offer one track, but they make sure their contribution truly counts when ‘Billis Negra Sofocante’ clocks in at almost seventeen minutes. Taking the entire side of a vinyl album to present something that many bands would consider over and done in approximately half the time, Goethya represent a fine mix of doom and black metal. The first movement of their lengthy offering is also quite unexpected, with the band working through a mid-paced riff layered with higher pitched guitar work that falls closer to garage blues. The rough recording style and echo on the drums is always present to remind you of the doom origins, of course – and if that were not enough, at the five minute mark, everything slows down to indulge in something much darker. With a more traditional doom riff in place, an expected gruff vocal…never comes. Instead, the musicians speed up again, rocking through even more garage influenced doom – and lo-fi recording notwithstanding – it’s great. The vocal wanders in a bit later and for some people that’ll be the breaking point, since their frontman possesses a very challenging style. It’s neither a doomy growl or Ozzy influenced wail, but instead, a hacking black metal anger. To be fair, it works excellently in places. During the section that kicks in at around ten minutes, Goethya plough through something that sounds like UK progressive black metallers Bast playing a deep doom blues and the vocalist sounds as if he’s having a breakdown. Yes it’s a difficult listen but there’s a lot to like in extreme metal terms. Whilst the recording budget could’ve done with being a bit bigger, the drummer locks into some pretty tight playing and inally with just a few minutes left of their musical marathon, Goethya give fans of purer doom some false hope when they slow the riffs and push the snare drum higher into the mix. By ndulging in a funereal riff that’s got plenty of weight, things get even heavier. Leading the listener to believe this’ll be a huge climax, they change tack again after two minutes; in terms of tease, that’s pretty mean, especially when a much purer form of black metal is channelled for the big finish. To be fair, they’re great at this too: the eventual shift from doom into progressive black metal is very natural, but it’s also guaranteed to ward off anyone who came looking for Electric Wizard or Orange Goblin sound-alikes. Taking in at least four exteme metal traits, ‘Billis Negra Sofocante’s biggest strength is in it’s thoughtful construction. While it runs to an excessive length, it never actually feels excessive.
Those looking for a bit less black metal and more genuine doom will find plenty of consolation throughout the two tracks from Santiago’s A Sad Bada, especially their first number, ‘It’s Just My Blood’. Although only short, it feels long and oppressive due to its first couple of verses being structured around a repeated chugging chord, struck three times per bar. It’s insistence on being unwavering is both fantastic…and tiring. The production is much fuller than Goethya’s and a deep bass goes a long way towards lending plenty of weight to the end sound. So far, so good. Moving into something that feels like it should be a chorus (but isn’t), the chugging is traded for a long, sludge metal guitar riff, as insanely slow riffs are cranked with a dourness that almost appears gleeful. Vocally it’s a bit tough, especially with frontman Fernando Figeroua absolutely caning his throat to produce a deep, guttural roar, but in terms of a doom/funeral doom crossover, it more than hits the mark. Their second track is more interesting, working through some slow instrumental passages with a cinematic flair. The obvious contrasting of a low distorted riff with a semi-clean lead occasionally hints at The Howling Void. In the main, these twelve minutes present a slow, heavy chug – pure, pure doom and a sad vocal that leans towards the gothic. While Fernando’s voice sometimes seems to be playing a game of “pick a note…any one you like”, there’s something about his wayward approach that suits the mopiness of the arrangement. Throwing in the odd death growl, this is still more interesting than the thousand Electric Wizard wannabes around the globe, and once everyone drops into some good old Conan inspired sludge, there’s a feeling these guys could probably attract a broader audience than Goethya. A recommended listen.
Hailing from Antofagasta, Infame are just one of three South American extreme metal bands trading under that name, but this Infame can be distinguished by their love of insanely heavy sludge. The first of their two numbers is also the heaviest one on this release. Taking a Conan-esque approach and then making the recording sound stretched is certainly a novel approach, but it’s also one that results in ‘Putrido Reflejo’ carrying a sound that could make the listener feel queasy. The riffs are great at first, although perhaps just a little too heavy for prolonged listening (unless you only listen to doom metal), but after a couple of minutes of sludgy and wonky riffery, a vertiginous feeling sets in and the heaviness somehow feels even heavier. Add to this a demented black metal freakout on the vocals and it almost becomes a like a Mike Patton championed art rock sludgebeast. Without any real indication that ‘Putrido’ has finished, the riffs segue into something even slower and ‘Planicies De Locura’ offers twelve minutes of painfully slow, heavy funeral doom. It’s easy to say that something sounds as if it’s been played back at half speed, but this really does: the guitars retain just the one sludgy tone throughout, and set against an especially ploddy drum part, there isn’t any real melody, even in doom terms. Having the lyrics in Portuguese only adds to the feeling of detachment. After six minutes, everyone wakes up and switches gears into a low-budget Electric Wizard-esque super Sabbath groove, but for most, that’ll too little, too late… Infame are a fucking scary act. That’s about the most positive thing that can be said about them and they’re probably happy with that.
…And finally, comes two lengthy numbers from this release’s most accessible and enjoyable band. Fronted by ex-Abbadon vocalist V., Aura Hiemis play something much closer to traditional doom metal. With music that’s very guitar based and a penchant for the heavy gothic, their brand of doom is definitely the most appealing. Right from the start, the twin guitar riff that slugs through the intro to ‘Visceral Laments, Part II’ comes across with the classic feel of Crowbar and the heaviest Down, while a mellotron sound adds a completely different mood to everything that’s gone before. The vocals are a melodic death metal growl – not everyone’s cuppa, admittedly – but the music is so strong, it’s enough to make this all work. Several bars of fairly accessible sludge set up a great track and then Aura Hiemis bring out their secret weapon: dual guitars with a clean tone, playing something that sounds like an old Sepultura coda. Here, an entirely new mood is set in place via an actual melody with no sludge to be heard – and from this, a gothic style is gradually built. You’ll find chugging rhythm guitars, a clean soaring lead and even a blanket of synths…every part of the arrangement feels absolutely essential. By the time the mood has been established, the influences aren’t quite so much Crowbar as early My Dying Bride – and all the better for that. In short, this is a brilliant nine minutes’ worth of extreme metal, enough alone to recommend a purchase of this entire disc. Finally, often concerned with a simple funeral doom riff played in descending scale, ‘Broken Roots’ has the perfect balance between heaviness and sadness. Whether playing the riff at full heaviness or in a scaled back arrangement on synths, it’s very effective. So, too, are the featured vocals: whether it’s V. forcing out demonic growls or the Nightwish-esque croon of the guesting female voice, the lasting appeal in this track carried within their performances. Playing out with an extended instrumental section where the funereal riff is given time to really come into its own – abetted by more twin guitars and tinkling piano – Aura Hiemis show a real gift for creating the theatrical. In lesser hands, this could’ve still turned into another plodding nine minutes but V.’s previous experience definitely plays a huge part in this track’s success – and, indeed, Aura Hiemis’ overall appeal.
Looking at ‘4Ways To Die’ as a whole, Aura Hiemis are the most talented band by far. However, that shouldn’t stop doom devotees being absorbed by the rest of this release. Any fans of extreme metal hoping to find things of genuine interest will certainly come away from this feeling as if their time has been well spent. With just seven tracks in seventy seven minutes, if not in the right head space, some of it could feel overly intense and possibly laborious, but for anyone who’s really into exploring DIY metal bands, at least three of the four featured acts will offer plenty of interest.