Downfall of Gaia: Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes

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Downfall of Gaia: Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes
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Downfall of Gaia: Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes
Atmospheric Hardcore, Crust Punk
Metal Blade Records
October 9th, 2012
Release length: 57:42
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Downfall of Gaia formed in the middle of 2008 as more of a Crust Punk group. However, as the band carried on, issuing a Split release with Kazan later that year, as well as an EP titled Epos in 2010, the shift in music became pretty clear. They eventually incorporated more of an atmospheric approach to their Punk and Hardcore ways. Often dark and depressive, this sound would define their debut-album through Metal Blade Records, titled Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes. What is clearly becoming a must-hear release, it’s obvious that the band’s name will be on the tongue of many fans of the two styles, if not more than those specific circles of music. But, does this release really deserve your attention, or is it nothing more than a hit built up by everyone’s hype?

There’s no denying that this recording carries a depressive tone to it, which is something the audio quality really tries to feed off of. The entire recording has a bit of a muffled sound. While not exactly analog or raw, the instruments sound work with it for the most part. The guitars can sound really heavy, though not quite as moving as you might imagine when not part of a slower area that utilizes a strong echo effect to give them a haunting output. The bass is pretty strong with a deeper presence at about the same level as the other riffs. This becomes vital during the breakdowns, where the tone usually shifts to a far more crushing and dismal approach. The drumming does remain pretty consistant though. The bass kicks have a duller thud to them that does border the line of having a click, and the snares have a higher sound to them that can ring out for a split second if not too tight. Both really don’t give the music much bite, but the clear cymbals and the slight echo they have does benefit the atmosphere. The vocals jump between a lower shouting manner, as well as a rhaspier style that feeds well into the offerings with a bit of a Depressive Black Metal touch to them, and oddly a little more crisp and vibrant in the mix.

Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes does seem to branch out, not specifically sticking to a Hardcore output. Sometimes you’ll happen upon Sludge Metal, as well as even a Depressive Black Metal stance. Of course, everything kicks off with a bit of a Progressive touch with “[Vulnus],” an instrumental track that has some beeping as the guitar distortion fades in, showing a bit of a Space Rock vibe that fades out as the depressing slower chords become more dominant. It takes a while to finally kick in, giving a slow, almost Doom Metal pace that isn’t too crushing, but definitely a bit on the emotional side while it becomes faster, bleeding into “Drowning by Wing Beats,” which starts with a bit of a Shoegaze style that you can easily close your eyes to and find yourself amongst the stars, a sensation built that is built up nicely into a truly moving piece with a drum performance that is simply infectious. This can sometimes cause it to enter epic territories before breaking into more of a traditional Hardcore piece near the two minute and fifty seconds mark. This isn’t too bad, as what follows often gives the listener plenty of chances to bang their head along, especially when the pace slows down and the sandpaper-like shouting kicks right in to suit the more aggressive tone, as well as the later breakdown.

The atmospheric music of the album is simply superb, and it’s when the band actually goes into more of a traditional Hardcore foundation that, emotional or not, ends up losing all unique bite, becoming boring rather quick. That is why “In the Rivers Bleak” ends up one of the far more impressive offerings. Yes, it does journey into a Depressive Black Metal approach, but the pounding drums and creepy guitar work don’t fade to simple hard-hitting Hardcore ideas, never letting up on the haunting, yet sinister environment that really leaves a memorable impact on the listener. “Giving Their Heir to the Masses” is actually a far lighter offering for about the first half, bringing a mid-tempo performance with a Progressive touch that won’t really lift your spirits somewhere, but is pretty easy to get into nonetheless. The latter half grows darker than the upbeat first part rather quick, using emotional lead chords against two drum notes played on the snares with large gaps of silence as simpler lyrics are shouted towards the closing, giving it a truly conclusionary sound that brings closure before the hostility returnd for the last two minutes.

While not all the songs are that bad, none of them will really hurt the release like “Beneath the Crown of Cranes.” About a minute and fifty-five seconds in, the song finally kicks in, but that’s only after a large gap of guitar feedback and other similar sounds that seem to continue the ending of “I Fade Away”. The second this music stops, it honestly just sounds like a whole other track kicking in a moment later, causing the whole start to just sound like padding. But, when the pace finally picks up about three and a half minutes in, you’re greeting with another Depressive Black Metal inspired performance similar to “In the Rivers Bleak,” though not quite as emotional. It’s far from bad, and the shouting vocal approach works in its benefit, but the bridges are the most engaging thanks to the haunting, truly saddening leads that come into play against the pounding double bass kicks. Sadly, this all seems to end around the nine-minute mark, going to a slower outro that does feel more at home than the aforementioned intro, but ultimately isn’t anything impressive. This means the actual song is around four minutes, though the entire thing comes to over ten minutes.

Just listening to Suffocation in the Swarm of Cranes makes it pretty obvious that the album does have a concept behind it. Unfortunately, that’s not enough of an excuse. There aren’t many tracks that will hit the listener hard, and aside “In the Rivers Bleak,” the only two that weave a truly emotional atmospheric experience are the instrumental intro “[Vulnus],” and the outro “[Asphyxia].” While only one song will really test your patience, this album’s material just isn’t the most impressive. There are still a number of songs that can have you coming back a few more times past that initial spin, though not many more than that. There’s a good deal of potential as well, and that’s one thing Downfall of Gaia definitely show off. It’s clear that, with a little more development, they will issue a truly ruthless and despair-ridden album that even the most veterans Depressive Black Metal fans would wet themselves over. But, the darkened atmospheric Hardcore of Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes just doesn’t provide enough unique material to really stand out and remain a truly enjoyable, or even that unique an experience.

01. [Vulnus] – 5:15
02. Drowning by Wing Beats – 8:08
03. In the Rivers Bleak – 8:08
04. I Fade Away – 10:06
05. Beneath the Crown of Cranes – 10:42
06. Giving Their Heir to the Masses – 9:35
07. [Asphyxia] – 5:48
Overall Score: 6/10
Downfall of Gaia (band)
Downfall of Gaia
Digital review copy of this release provided by Metal Blade Records.