Puritan Masochism

Written by: AP on 11/10/2020 15:35:42

The stars seemed to have aligned for Konvent in the beginning of the year; the Copenhagen quartet had been picked up by a respectable metal label, their highly anticipated début album had just landed, they had sold out one of the bigger venues in their hometown for their release show, and they had appearances at both Copenhell and Roskilde Festival on their belt from the previous year already. And although the novel coronavirus may since have slowed the band’s breakthrough somewhat, the hype surrounding this young death / doom metal outfit is yet to dissipate — not least because said album and the subject of this review, “Puritan Masochism”, speaks directly to the Danish metal crowd, which tends to prefer the more traditional styles of metal over the new and innovative. Not everything has to blow your mind in order to satisfy it, and Konvent thus choose groove over dynamics, and atmosphere over dizzying instrumental antics.

After listening to “Puritan Masochism” for the first time and then seeing the band live shortly thereafter, it was above all the sense of purpose that pervades everything they do that left an impression, from the tightness of their songwriting to the excellent production of the album, and even hiring a stage coach to help improve their performance craft. Nothing about Konvent seems to betray their virginity, and were it not for the distinctive vocals of Rikke Emilie List, there are moments on the record where one could be forgiven for mistaking the quartet for a more seasoned band like Coffins or perhaps Graves at Sea. It is in particular the sonorous, funereal melodies created by guitarist Sara Helena Nørregaard that evoke a resemblance to the latter outfit, their mournful tone stifling what little cinders of light dare rear their head amidst the obsidian magma that is the band’s music. It is suffocating and hopeless as doom should be, and these sensations are only accentuated by List, whose sepulchral growling style renders the lyrics nigh impossible to unravel — for better or worse. One has to admire the depths to which she can take her voice, even if it does have certain negative implications for the impact and longevity of the album as a whole.

This is really, really heavy music and it does admittedly grow a bit monotonous in periods. But one should not dismiss the idea that such monotony could well be a deliberate artistic choice — after all, glacial movements, seemingly endless repetitions, and the sonic weight of a lifetime of anguish are the hallmarks of doom metal. And if that sounds like your cup of tea, “Puritan Masochism” delivers the stuff in droves, sucking the listener into an inescapably thick sludge of low-end rumble, one that nonetheless contains a handful of standout moments to latch onto as well. It is hard to forget the dense and desolate main riff in the titular opener (and not just because Nørregaard likes to deploy variations on it throughout the album, as evidenced by the second single “Trust”), while the ringing notes she plucks out in the likes of “World of Gone” and “Ropes Pt. I” bestow upon the tracks a compelling ceremonial atmosphere. The latter two tracks are also notable due to List’s switching to a raspier, snarling voice that provides much needed respite from her preferred guttural growls. But there is no question that the mantlepiece on the record is the ambitious closing piece “Ropes Pt. II”, which frankly eclipses the rest of the material on the album by introducing a more dynamic structure full of rhythmic variety and grandiose melodies.

As a début album then, “Puritan Masochism” is a pleasant surprise in terms of the professional approach taken by Konvent in writing, recording and producing it. It also bristles with promise, albeit one feels like much of the potential shown is still yet to be realised. There are times here when one almost forgets that the music is actually moving in some way, but as “Ropes Pt. II” and to a certain extent “Ropes Pt. I” both prove, the quartet is perfectly capable of penning impactful and memorable doom metal epics without sacrificing the extremity derived from their death metal influences. If Konvent are able to find a greater balance between these two sources of inspiration, then there is every reason to believe that the group’s eventual sophomore album could deliver the international breakthrough that is still wanting.


Download: Puritan Masochism, Trust, Ropes Pt. I, Ropes Pt. II
For the fans of: Anatomia, Bethmoora, Coffins, Godthrymm
Listen: Facebook

Release date 24.01.2020
Napalm Records

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