It has taken literally all my strength to avoid making the obvious Hamlet joke in regards to this re-release of the 2007 debut album from Denmark’s Woebegone Obscured. The band seems to be making an admirable attempt to stake out a middle ground between the drawn-out black melancholy of Shining or Silencer and the funereal ambient doom of Skepticism, but rather than present a compelling hybrid, the band struggles to present a distinct identity. There is a major difference between music that seems thoughtfully mournful and music that just plays as maudlin and lugubrious, and Deathstination (big yikes with that pun) consistently dances on the wrong side of the fence.
In its doomiest moments, Woebegone Obscured sets its sights on the more crushing side of the funeral genre like Esoteric or maybe Nortt (for the blackened touches), which means that for the most part, the band thankfully avoids the overblown ambient fuzz of some the genre’s driftier acts like Until Death Overtakes Me. The song structures change things up frequently enough between crawling doom and shuffling doom/death, but the band isn’t quite able to sustain interest and momentum throughout these over-long songs. “Coils of Inane Comatose,” (what?) for example, sports individual sections that contain flashes of good ideas, but by the time it stumbles across its 11½-minute finish line, I’m exhausted in all the wrong ways.
The guitar tone is one of my biggest complaints. I appreciate that the album flirts both with the ambient and punishing sides of the doom/death continuum, but the tone lacks any of the punch that the material needs to really stand out. A band like Evoken has perfected the type of sound that clarifies the clean and desolate moments of a song while bringing the heavy like a son of a bitch when necessary. Too much of this album drowns in a mid-paced purgatory of bland riffing, soft, rounded guitars, and annoyingly up-front yet monotonous vocals.
Things aren’t all bad, all the time. The clean vocals that crop up halfway through “Maestitia” are over-the-top but attention-grabbing, and the clean guitar lines in the opening of “Coils of Inane Comatose” are a nice touch. At about the seven-minute mark of the same song, the band introduces skittering, almost contrapuntal guitar lines which are reminiscent of the soul-warping turmoil of Xasthur’s Telepathic with the Deceased (though Woebegone Obscured comes out worse off from the comparison). The echoing chants that permeate the final minutes of “Deathscape” are suitably haunting, and the song is probably the best of the album, due in no small part to its more digestible eight-plus minute running time.
The album is pleasant enough as background music, but there’s really nothing on here that hits me like a fire extinguisher to the gut and forces me to pay attention, and that’s a bummer. Background music is all well and good, except I don’t get the feeling that the band intends this to be background music. Where I should be kept hanging on each note in anticipation of the next, totally absorbed in a light-extinguishing journey of despondency and self-abnegation, I find myself instead wondering if that chicken salad sandwich I ate yesterday was a bit suspect. Maybe the problem isn’t that things are rotten; maybe it’s that they need to be rottener.