Germany’s Downfall of Gaia may not be the first act one would associate with luminous music, but their cataclysmic new record does feature more than a few rays of sunshine. Laced with elements of post-hardcore, black metal and down-tempo music, Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes is a layered piece of work from a cohesive unit.
The band formed in 2008 and went through the requisite changes modern musical acts seem to go through before settling on a quartet that includes Dominik Goncalves dos Reis (vocals, guitars), Peter Wolff (vocals, guitars), Anton Lisovoj (vocals, bass), and Johannes Stoltenburg (drums).
There is little doubting the fact that Downfall of Gaia has evolved over the years, from their days as a so-called crust band to their more complex modern offerings. Their 2009 split with French band Kazan punched the holes necessary for progression and Suffocating seems to shovel dirt over the grave of all they were while still paying homage to the ghosts beneath the surface.
A concept album, this 2012 release makes great use of atmospheric effects and long-winded jams to pound its narrative home. The songs are expansive and richly-detailed, commencing with the bleak mood of “[Vulnus].” The instrumental draws from whitecaps of feedback and effects before building to a surprisingly melodic hub that is eventually pummeled with Stoltenberg’s trouncing drums.
The eight-minute “Drowning By Wing Beats” follows, picking up with skeletal guitars (at first) before the throat-shredding vocals kick in.
It’s important to note that the vocals of Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes don’t function so much as mere canals to harvest lyrics but rather seem to see their purpose as providing supplementary instrumentation.
When the tearing and burning of “In the Rivers Bleak” turns up, the grating vocals convey more than mostly garbled words. And as the atmosphere courses out through other piles of sun-kissed but desolate menace, like the sprawling loveliness of “I Fade Away” or the over-10-minute asphyxiation of “Beneath the Crown of Cranes,” it’s hard not to see every aspect of Downfall of Gaia as serving the greater good.
In other words, this is a band that functions as a unit. It’s a rare breed, flouting the conception of pointing out a “really good guitarist” in favour of warranting that these Hannover kids come and go as one.