Somnus Aeternus – Exulansis (Epidemie Records)

Monday, 12th September 2016
Rating: 7.5/10

It takes a little something extra to create a doom metal album. Particularly when you forgo the easier tactic of bringing some death metal in and providing some bone-crushing moments to balance those soul-crushing ones. Somnus Aeternus’ brand of doom is more akin to the funeral type – slow, brooding, and plodding away – but with some light black and post-metal elements to heighten the emotions.

Exulansis is a dense listen on many levels. There’s complex lyrical content to absorb, along with some very interesting drawings through the booklet (even the digital one) that make up an evolving picture that mirrors the cover. The music itself, with lumbering crawls, deathly roars, and some somber keys, designed to draw you into this vision that they’ve designed. In some of the more mellow segments, you can hear some chanted cleans – the type that feel more tortured than triumphant, ready to drag you further into the abyss. But then you’ll find a few frantic moments as well, as in “Path Through Oblivion,” that erupt into blastbeats and crazed screams. It’s an effective offset from the doomy mindset and still manages to avoid feeling like solace. A bleak and depressive trip this is, all the way up to some culminating moments at the end of “Reaching the Anatta,” which feels near-melodic if it weren’t so dread-inducing. Closing things out on a somber instrumental “VI,” there is a slight calm but not without some sense of foreboding.

Somnus Aeternus have a good understanding of the atmospheric uses of doom, and Exulansis might not be the most comfortable listen, but it’s an interesting trip with much to explore. It’s also a thumbs up for the lyrical sense and the artwork that accompanies it – there’s a true sense of cohesion here. It may be funeral doom in nature, but it’s richly, well-crafted material.

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