Around this point in the year, it’s often a lot easier for weirder or more unconventional bands to release music, typically because there’s less competition in terms of bigger releases and with an already-established niche fanbase, it takes some of the pressure off an inevitable decline in sales and streams. It’s the only logical reason for Dirge to be releasing Lost Empyrean now; it is their seventh album after all, and a career spanning almost twenty-five years has yet to see them become more than a cult act. Granted, that’s not totally unforeseen – in a genre like post-metal where Neurosis and Isis and held as the pinnacle, it can be hard for other bands to really get a foot in the door – but Dirge’s longevity has at least made them worthy of a shot for something more.
That’s definitely a more salient justification than the music, especially when Lost Empyrean is indicative of a band who haven’t really evolved or innovated what post-metal is, but easily live up to their name with the crushingly heavy slabs of sound that can make this genre so visceral. On the other hand, Dirge are no more impregnable than some of their bigger counterparts – tracks ranging from six-and-a-half to ten minutes of dense, slabdragging noise with relatively little modulation will definitely do that, not to mention the philosophical concept that, in all honesty, doesn’t bring much more to the table – but for just a solid post-metal album with all the trimmings included, you can’t go far wrong with Lost Empyrean.
And that largely is the extent of what there is to say here, because it’s not as if Dirge are pushing boundaries or really coming up with a sound that’s their own. Admittedly that can be something of a disappointment for an album like this where Dirge are essentially dragging out the very essence of a sound without putting much if any of their own spin on it, but as Wingless Multitudes sets the stage for what’s to come in its seismic, throttling heft, it’s hard to deny the thrill that comes from a sound like this. It mightn’t be constant – a factor that’s an unfortunate side effect of the aforementioned lack of modulation – but with a guitar tone as utterly crushing as it is here alongside a production style that’s so effective in capturing the sense of grandeur and scope that works in tandem with it, Lost Empyrean arguably works more as a display of Dirge’s knack for colossal soundscapes above anything else. Even if actual songs aren’t in abundance, Dirge still know how to captivate to a reasonable degree, and that’s definitely worth appreciating with an album like this.
And yes, if all that seems like an attempt at diverting attention away from Dirge’s notable mid-tier status within post-metal, it’s more or less a necessity when the aim is to get the most from an album like this. By design, there’s not a lot to say about it, even with Dirge trying their absolute hardest to make it at least compelling. It definitely is as well, just not scaling any enormous heights or proving to be the dissenting voice away from the norm that this band could be, to be perfectly honest. Still, it’s not bad, and for another lot of post-metal that’ll go down easily for the fans, Lost Empyrean is a worthy investment to make.
For fans of: Neurosis, Cult Of Luna, Bossk
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Lost Empyrean’ by Dirge is released on 14th December on Debemur Morti Productions.