Maestus, depending on your knowledge of Latin (being either a frog or a state of mourning), is the work of Stephen Parker, who most people may know for his association with the band Pillorian (although, as of writing this, he is now an ex-member). Maestus are, according to their press release, influenced by Pallbearer (whose 'Heartless' album was easily in my top 3 albums for 2017) and Ahab, among others. 'Deliquesce' - to become liquid via absorption of moisture! - is the band's second album. I must admit, I wasn't sure what to expect with this one; Pillorian really weren't my cup of tea (they seemed like a natural devolution of Agalloch's sound, which was frustrating). However, while Pillorian were very much a black metal-influenced band, Maestus are here to bring the doom to the party.
Four tracks, all in double-figure run-times, make up this oppressive slab of misery. While the band themselves dwell on such mind states, I find the atmosphere of the album strangely uplifting. In fact, there is a beauty to this, which is missing from a lot of music involving death growls; it has its fair share of melancholy, though. In terms of musical signposts, early Pallbearer is a decent name to throw around. There are shades of Swallow the Sun and October Tide too. Opening track 'Deliquesce' sets out the band's stall nicely; it's a compelling blend of ferocious death doom, with undercurrents of despairing beauty. The introduction, which is a blend of piano and keyboards is really quite lovely. More than any other track it showcases the band's ability to ensure that fifteen minutes doesn't become a chore. 'Black Oake' is a monolithic exercise in despair; while further highlighting the keyboards of Sarah Beaulieu; poetically atmospheric without falling into faux-orchestral. 'The Impotence of Hope' again opens with piano and lush keyboards, acoustic guitars eventually joining the fray, before the sorrowful electric guitars explode to announce the dual vocals of Stephen and Kenneth Parker. It's an effective use of opposing growling styles. Clean vocals do appear to break the tension, even if they are functional at worse. Final track, 'Knell of Solemnity', opens in a similar fashion - which is probably my only real complaint - and continues the standard set by the preceding songs. It all ends in a chaos of dissonance.
I must mention the production, though. It is massive. It is one of the biggest sounding releases in recent memory that doesn't fall into excessive clipping. Listening through headphones was a treat.
Sure, like a lot of doom music, the pace and similarity can be off-putting. But, allow yourself to sink into, and sync with, the music and you'll be rewarded with what is a high standard of song-writing.
Review by Steve Cowan
8th February 2019
2) Black Oake
3) The Impotence of Hope
4) Knell of Solemnity
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...there is a beauty to this, which is missing from a lot of music involving death growls..."