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Though Aseethe identify as a doom act, the prominent noise samples on 2011 debut Reverent Burden showed that the Iowa City trio was trying to do more than just sludgeon its audience into submission. Aseethe have since recorded an improv album, a suite of re-worked riffs by avant-doom duo Barn Owl, an EP featuring synth accompaniment, and a rendition of Black Sabbath’s “Rat Salad” stretched and slowed beyond recognition. Across that entire body of work, Aseethe maintained an atmosphere and textures verging on ambient drone.
On Hopes of Failure, Aseethe shed their sound’s flaky outer layers in favor of ultra-dense riffs that creep by like boiling molasses. True, they built Reverent Burden on similarly solid riffing, but this time they offer less in the way of sonic detail. The new album—four tunes ranging from eight-and-a-half to 14 minutes—drones on without the subtleties that distinguished Aseethe in the first place. And because it lacks the space and sweep of their previous work, Hopes of Failure marginalizes the industrial-metal gloom furnished by drummer Eric Diercks’ samples.
The new material doesn’t reward the patience of letting the songs unfold nearly as effectively as this band always has. Diehard doom aficionados will likely appreciate Hopes of Failure as a purposeful trimming of extraneous fat. But it’s puzzling that Aseethe would choose to recast themselves as something of a conventional doom band at this stage, after repeatedly demonstrating that there’s more to what they do.
It would be one thing if the fidelity of the recording could approximate the sensation of standing in front of amplifier cabinets, having your chest rattled by the sheer density of sound. But that’s not the case. It’s not that the recording is necessarily flat, but Hopes of Failure doesn’t say anything we haven’t already heard after decades’ worth of tone-obsessed artists getting better and better at capturing on mic the way speaker cones move air through a room. Compared to 2014’s Burdens II, it’s almost shocking how little Hopes of Failure conveys a sense of the band in a physical setting.
At times, the album does hint at the wrinkles Aseethe have added to doom. “Barren Soil,” for example, begins with a Danny Barr bassline so deep it seems to dip toward subsonic frequencies. That said, every note is audible and you can actually hum along to the melody—no small feat when you’re dealing with timbres that tend to smother pitch. And in a dramatic departure for the band, Barr also sings a clean verse on closing track “Into the Sun.” After Barr and his brother, guitarist and founder Brian Barr, have spent a half hour barking, the shift to relatively melodic vocals enhances the album’s acerbic mood.
But the band opts not to emphasize these features. Stripped of its usual dimension, Aseethe’s music consigns the Barr brothers’ lyrics to the realm of unremarkable negativity. Clearly, Aseethe have made a concerted effort to streamline their approach, but Hopes of Failure only underscores how much better off they are when they stick to their guns. As such, it functions best as a gateway to a more colorful back catalog.Share