How do I even approach this album after looking forward to it for practically two years now? I vividly remember just a few months after Tchornobog’s impact learning that the mastermind behind it all had changed his funeral doom act’s name from Slow to Drown, which made me very excited given Slow was one of my very first exposures to funeral doom that still holds a place in my heart. Then, what was surely the same week, being shown the endlessly gorgeous art that was to be paired with an album whose name felt monumental: “Subaqueous”. I couldn’t fucking wait! But, the wait is all I could do, and it really felt like I had to be as patient as the tide as a couple of years dragged on before the depths finally beckoned us into its abyssal trenches.
I truly cannot express how much I was looking forward to this album nor how much Drown blew all of my expectations out of the water with just the teaser for the second track alone being enough to make me want to fall into this record for the first time over and over again. Across over forty minutes and two tracks, there isn’t a single thing that Drown doesn’t bring to the table here that doesn’t continue to trend of high excellence for the guy behind the name, and it’s through the stories here and the unparalleled craftsmanship that “Subaqueous” has instantly become one of the funeral doom albums to know in recent times. The only thing more crushing than the entirety of this harrowing record is the very depths in all of their glorious blackness! Everything that Drown brought to the table is everything necessary for any body of work to be considered a masterpiece, and “Subaqueous” achieves that with seemingly no effort.
What’s important to remember before you submerge yourself in the ocean to follow along with the pair of tracks that make you “Subaqueous” is that there are multiple layers going on here at any given time. Granted, that’s something that a great vast majority of music can boast, but it takes on an elevated form here as Drown shows us just how much mastery he has over his craft. Following our protagonists, we are shown a gorgeous variety of atmospheres from the serenades of the ocean waves on the shore, cetaceans calling to us to mimic the grieving that’s ever-present throughout “Subaqueous”, and the churning of leagues deep as the blood continuously spread thinner and thinner as Father of all swallows us as we drown deeper still. It’s magnificently haunting, to say the least, but at the same time, it’s one of the most awe-inspiring things to behold. While Drown’s sheer presence is constantly crushing you physically and mentally, it’s the idea of being driven to the sea by the heartbroken call of whales to looking up into the escaping light to see a lifeless silhouette drift across the melting surface-sky that leaves your jaw on the floor as “Subaqueous” does everything in its power to widdle you down to your most basic form while simultaneously astound at every turn.
And all of that isn’t even taking into consideration the sheer musical prowess that’s on constant display here without any single second being devoid of apex quality! The only valid wish I have with the entirety of “Subaqueous” down to the very note is that I wish this work was much longer so I could hear more of it which is never something that I thought I’d have to say for funeral doom of all styles. While incorporating the obvious heaviness that we’ve already talked about, it’s through fantastic melodies that Drown is able to keep us grounded and constantly impressed all throughout as they truly do carry the album while the heaviness is at the forefront of the onslaught and the barely decipherable vocals guided us through the black. But it’s in moments of great reprieve that embody both the immense grief in the theme as well as the swelling isolation of the open ocean whose floor we slowly drift towards the floor such that you really feel akin to the second protagonist, the son, whose pressurized skin becomes one with the floor and blood flows into the trenches as his shadow floats aimlessly; truly subaqueous.
That’s what it means to listen to “Subaqueous”. To become one with not just the water, but the enveloping depths of the encroaching dark as uncomprehensible grief racks your very soul as we observe the sunk that is as tragic as it is bewildering to witness. It’s to be watched by the native lifeforms that inhabit the black as they watch you drift from above into the forbidden trench where slaves are forbidden. To see mother share your fate from on high whilst Father comes to swallow you such that your drowning never ceases, even after you first sought to escape now alien torment. To listen to Drown is to drown your very soul, and, if you allow the act to work its aquatic magic, you’ll be left stunned by a work that is nigh on exquisite in every capacity.
Like I had already said, this was an album that I’ve been looking forward to for what feels like eons at this point and there’s no other result that I’d rather have experienced than what we’ve been gifted with here. Every single possible aspect of “Subaqueous” is everything that the very phrase “aquatic doom” can embody with such mastery being the driving force that allows me to sit here and easily consider this to be one of the premier albums of the year that, surely, will be a standout work come the end of 2020, and far longer after that. It may have been from the sweltered corpse of Slow that Drown made its return to the world, and it’s at every feasible turn with “Subaqueous” that Drown proves to be something else entirely that must be heard to be believed.
“Subaqueous” releases on February 28th!
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