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Anyone acquainted with the funeral doom genre will tell you (at least if they're being honest) that listening to albums like Loss' 2011 full-length debut, Despond, is a feat of physical endurance as much as listening enjoyment. No matter how good the band and album may be, it just takes a special kind of music fan to weather the sluggish, quasi-dead tempos, endure the crushing instrumentation and soul-snuffing croaks, and wallow in the melodies' abject misery, if they're lucky enough to get any melodies at all. To that point, this Nashville quartet actually excels at developing the melodic portion of the funeral doom equation, crafting not only densely layered harmonic themes but sparse and surprisingly deft guitar lines to help shorten the yawning gulf between snare drum smacks, and provide contrasts for the crushing, detuned bass and cavernous vocals grinding underneath. At their best, the group's epic funeral marches (e.g. "Open Veins to a Curtain Closed," "Cut Up Depressed and Alone," "Conceptual Funeralism Unto the Final Act (Of Being)," etc.) teem with a sullen gravitas, suicidal inevitability, and sheer horror in the face of death's embrace, belying those comparatively fetching melodies (calling them "sublime" or "lovely" would be a stretch) that in fact pervade them. Near the end, Loss even dare break with tradition via the clean sung vocal of "Silent and Completely Overcome" (so exotic!) and, nestled amid these drawn-out expositions one also finds surprisingly memorable interludes like the cryptic "Weathering the Blight," the cyclone-like "Deprived of the Void," and piano-based title track that, for once, really assists in the album's overall flow, rather than interrupt it. In the end, one just hopes that these melodic strengths and occasional experiments are embraced instead of rejected by funeral doom purists, because Despond has the potential to welcome new many new fans into the style's cobwebbed catacombs.

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