In my mid-twenties, I would occasionally fall into deep bouts of depression. There were days in college where I felt so miserable that I wouldn’t even get out of bed. It felt like an immense buildup of pressure inside my skull, like someone had tied cinderblocks to my legs and dropped me into the ocean. Although I never once contemplated suicide during those days when the dark waters of despair lapped at my feet, I did often think about what it would be like to just curl up and die, and whether or not anyone would give a shit if I did.
Reflecting on those times, I often find myself wondering what causes a person to go from merely being depressed to suicidal. What pushes people over that edge, past the point of no return, to that terrifyingly dark place where salvation hangs from the end of a noose, or flows out of your veins across the edge of a razor blade? Having known someone who decided to take their own life, I’ve had multiple conversations concerning this subject, and they’ve brought me no closer to the answers. The most terrifying aspects of humanity are the ones we have no answers for, the ones that can’t be upheld to any standards of reason or logic. I can’t imagine a more disturbing thought than that of someone I know, a friend or loved one, deciding that it is better to erase their own existence than to live another day.
When mere words and thoughts won’t do for contemplating such heavy subjects, we can look to the higher language of the arts for a better understanding. We can stare into the abyss through the lens of art, study it closely, without experiencing all the dangers inherent. Of all the times I’ve stood at the precipice, Loss’ Despond might be the deepest, darkest glimpse into that cold, black void that I’ve ever encountered. It is an album that embraces despair on a level that’s practically unfathomable, communicating it with such totality that it can only be the work of musicians who’ve been to that edge and back.
Embracing elements of death metal, doom, noise/ambient and even black metal, Despond is the slow motion soundtrack to a mental funeral. Guitarist Mike Meacham’s vocals sound like the gurgling, suffocated anguish of a lone tortured entity erupting from that aforementioned abyss, his lyrics the poetry of the diseased and the damned. They offer no answers, no solace, only glimpses of an unescapable personal hell. Musically, the album is just as harrowing. Glacial chords carved from pure black ice and pulverizing death knell drum beats drag you down deeper and deeper into Loss’ world of hopelessness, forcing you to wallow in your own blood, shit, piss and vomit. It’s an album about giving up and letting go, with not even a speck of light penetrating its oppressive darkness.
Amidst Despond‘s world-destroying heaviness, there is melody. It flows slowly and deliberately throughout the album, often recalling the Peaceville Three in its mournfulness. Music this depressing shouldn’t be catchy, but somehow those sluggish melodies worm their way not just into your skull but into your fucking psyche, haunting you for days on end like a restless spirit. This is especially true of “Silent and Completely Overcome”, which features a guest vocal turn by Pallbearer’s Brett Campbell. Campbell’s eerie clean vocals lend a traditional doom vibe to the track, only to be engulfed by Meacham’s chasmal growl, the album’s last speck of humanity cast to the pits.
Nietzsche said that when we gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes back. Despond is over an hour of gazing into the abyss, and its monolithic sorrow will indeed gaze back, creeping into the very fabric of your being with repeated exposure. As I stated earlier, there are no answers to be found here, but the album will immerse you fully in the thoughts and emotions of someone who’s come to that awful conclusion that life is no longer worth living. If art is truly the window to man’s soul, then Loss have done an all too believable job of smashing out the glass and boarding it up forever.
Earlier this year I interviewed John Anderson and Tim Lewis of Loss. You can read the interview HERE.