Rorcal, from Switzerland, present Heliogabalus , a near-perfect doom/drone album. This record is so dark that the cover can’t even be seen on a computer. Hell, the music is so dark that some may not even be able to listen it. It takes a valiant effort to listen to a 1 song album that clocks in at 70 minutes, especially an album of this caliber. Good thing Rorcal make it worth your while. Heavy, dissonant, painful, menacing, depressing, dark, terrifying, are all words that immediately come to mind upon first listen.
Heliogabalus begins with a high-hat, yep, just a high-hat. This happens to perfectly set up the first section of the album, 12 minutes of slow thunderous doom. It sounds similar to Black Sheep Wall in its bass heavy chugging brutality. However, Rorcal expand upon more than just that by adding dissonant guitar feedback and difficult timing. So slow and heavy that even Khanate would wonder how they get away with it. The vocals come in midway through the chugging onslaught and add even more ferocity to the album. The distorted screams sound incredibly tortured and painful. Often the screams are held out so long that they begin to sound like another instrument, complimenting the textures and atmosphere of the album. Rorcal come to a sudden halt at around the 12 minute marker, which begins the second section of the album.
The second section begins with just drumming and some slight eerie electronic elements. Eventually a droning bass is added to the mix. The part as a whole still sounds dark and heavy without guitar, reminiscent of Times of Grace era Neurosis. It then explodes into a wall of melancholic post-metal riffing. At this point you realize that every part serves a purpose and serves its purpose very well.
Rorcal end the first half with the album’s heaviest section. Down-tuned and bass-heavy, it pummels you in a way comparable to Thou. Afterwards, 15 minute atmospheric droning begins, led by light background keys and ringing-out guitars. The second half finally begins with another thick post-metal sounding riff, with influences of black and post-hardcore. The guitars amazingly convey sorrowful emotions and slightly bring to mind the emotive style of black played by Celeste. One last drone part, which happens to sound like something right off of Black One by Sunn O))). Then the 12 minute finale ensues with a surprising double-bass blackened part. Much faster than anything heard earlier on the record, this part insures that Heliogabalus is perfectly balanced within its elements.
So is 70 minutes worth it? Yes. The album does an amazing job at balancing drone elements while still creating anxiety over wondering what’s going to happen next. Is all 70 minutes necessary? Maybe not, there’s some fat that could be trimmed off in the middle. When they’re playing it live they must be looping their guitars and taking a potty break. Got to tune sometime right? Maybe they’re at the bar getting a drink. You have to respect that. You also should respect yourself and do yourself the favor of checking out doom metal’s 2010 hidden gem. Did I mention it’s free on their website?
9.5 / 10
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