It took a little while for “[Vulnus]” to finally kick in, but when it did I was genuinely surprised. Instead of what I expected, the introductory instrumental came off more like a mid-tempo Depressive Black Metal track full of emotional leads with a slight echo to them, making it rich in atmosphere, especially when the pace finally picked up. It lasts well past five minutes, but by the time it finally kicks in you’ve wasted a good three. This bleeds into the next song, “Drowning by Wing Beats.” This has a pretty strong Sludge presence to it, but still keeps to the previous style here and there, especially with the heavily atmospheric leads that benefit from the rawer production quality. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t that engaging, coming off like simpler mid-paced material that was pretty heavy, and did a good job of setting up the environment in some areas, but quickly started to grow old. Given the song is over eight minutes, it’s not a good thing when you hit the four minute mark and you’re just growing bored of it.
A similar transition occurs for “Into the Rivers Bleak,” using feedback in the guitars to bridge the two together. This time, Downfall of Gaia brings together a Hardcore sound laced with that Sludge approach of the previous track. It’s a catchy song with a deeper tone, but again just came off a bit boring, simply not being heavy enough to really pull off what the group is going for. There are some additional atmospheric chords utilized, which helped to add a little more bite to the mix to pull you back in and increase the pace a little bit. This change is a welcome one. The only gripe is how eccentric the changes can be, playing more into an Avant-Garde jerking than a Progressive one, which includes blast beat drum work over music that simply doesn’t cater to that approach prior to slowing to a crawl.
Next was “I Fade Away,” which surprised me as being a stand alone track that wasn’t bridged somehow from “In the Rivers Bleak” like it and the other two had been. The slow music and build from crisp, cold chords and simple drumming to a heavier, intense Hardcore effort with plenty of emotion in the chords was a nice touch to kick off the ten minute plus song. The music came off heavier and more intense, and even the slower passages after the pace quickens sounded great, or at the very least still heavy enough to keep the track flowing smoothly despite whether or not a certain chunk was actually filler. Of course, this happened more than you might expect it to.
Before I walked away from this one, I gave “Beneath the Crown of Cranes” a spin as well. This was mostly because the transition between it and “I Fade Away” was so seamless that I didn’t even notice it had occured. Like others, the track takes a little while to kick in, but the stronger Depressive Black Metal foundation worked wonders for the mid-tempo music and atmospheric leads. The drums came through pounding, enhancing the deeper tones of the bass guitar quite well. It was an impressive offering, though it did cater to the extending slower passages similar to what appears all throughout the album and, unlike “I Fade Away,” often sound like nothing more than padding. The closing suddenly stops the more aggressive material for a softer, soothing clarity on the guitars similar to “In the Rivers Bleak.” While the transition into it does come off natural for the song’s climax, it just hits on the boring side again, lasting a bit too long with nothing all that special to really hold your interest.
Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes is an album I really wanted to get into after hearing the potential found on “[Vulnus].” Unfortunately, after spending some time with it, I’m not certain whether I’ll be able to enjoy it as much as others might. I can’t say this is going to be a bad album, but when one of the best songs on a release that I’ve heard so far is the introductory instrumental, there’s definitely something wrong. I just don’t feel the bite. There’s no kick or hard hitting impact despite the rawer sound, especially in the slower material. The faster Depressive Black Metal areas make me want to close my eyes and let the atmosphere take me away, but more times than not it seemed to be interrupted for some of the group’s Hardcore roots, or even some Sludge elements that took away from the environment, not including “I Fade Away” of course, that they were clearly working hard to present to me as a listener. Perhaps a little more time evolving their sound will do the band a world of good, but for now this just seems like an album with some potential that simply fails to deliver, as well as just doesn’t intrigue me that much, evident by not even bobbing my head once through the first give of seven songs.
Digital review material for this article provided by Metal Blade Records