Portland’s Aldebaran has progressively schlepped its overall sound further and further away from the more ‘sludgy’ roots that bound their impressive 2007 debut into a fully functioning funereal death doom band bent on depressing the living shit out of listeners. The aptly titled Embracing the Lightless Depths picks up precisely where last year’s “EP” (the single-songed, 28-minute Buried Beneath Aeons) left off: brutally slow and distressing misery chained to brutally long songs that seem certain to drive the ADD-riddled metal fan unquestionably nutty. In other words, this album ain’t no picnic. Unless your idea of a picnic involves an 1200lb Shambling Mound clumping its way onto your blanket and interrupting your alleged re-read of the Great Gatsby under the sun by urinating all over your molten brie and Kashi Crackers.
Opener “Occultation of Hali’s Gates” serves as a suitably dejected (and relatively brief, at a mere 3:22) portent before softly drifting into the first of two 20+ minute tunes on the record. “Forever in the Dream of Death” (24:58) is fortified with the sort of overall agonizing burden and fits of gloomy melody that would make any old fan of the sadly nevermore Asunder happy(?) to be alive and inching toward a brand new demise. Its subtle shifts are likely to be missed by the casual ear — the way that single guitar around 8:25 slowly brings in a slightly different shade of bereavement; or that subdued, weepy “lead” that hits at the 10:30 mark. In truth, this sprawling tune manages multiple shifts in its grievous stance, yet all fairly inconspicuous, and all become increasingly clear as the album is given more time to settle.
“Occultation of Ocular Tauri” follows and provides 6.5 minutes of quiet, delicate pause with its gentle guitar and soft drumming before the record’s next epic saga plows into your face. “Sentinel of a Sunless Abyss” (29:38) strikes with a bellow and riff right from the gate, and eventually settles into a dark, unsettling tune that swaps out a good portion of “Forever in the Dream of Death’s” weepiness in favor of looong stretches of slightly off-kilter tromps that provide a perfect backdrop to the album’s disquieting and all-embracing Lovecraft/Cthulu Mythos by-way-of Bierce/An Inhabitant of Carcosa theme. “Sentinel…” is not without its bits of beauty, however, as the 15-minute mark eventually folds in another deftly pretty bit of melody before the bottom finally drops out for the album’s slowest stretch around 21:00. And “Occultation of Dim Carcosa” closes out the record with 2 minutes of gravely plucked guitar to put a succinct, gloomy period on the end of a wholly satisfying 67-minute Aldebaran journey.
Again, probably not the sort of record you’d ever expect to hear pealing out of a convertible Cabriolet in the parking lot of your local Jamba Juice, but Embracing the Lightless Depths scores huge for those folks who like it dark, sloooow, heavy and utterly hopeless. Between this record and the newly dropped beauty from Evoken, we may still have a chance at finally blotting out that brutal, accursed sun that’s leveling the summer of 2012. All hail the Aldebarbarians.