The Foetal Mind - The Grand Contraction
Hypnotic Dirge
Gothic Doom
11 songs (59:02)
Release year: 2010
The Foetal Mind, Hypnotic Dirge
Reviewed by Charles
After netra’s latest, reviewed a couple of weeks ago, comes more adventurously-minded French metal courtesy of the ever-intriguing Hypnotic Dirge. It seems harsh to mention that the name of the band- The Foetal Mind- is misspelt as The Foatal Mind on the sleeve of the CD itself. Hopefully it’s just the promotional copy they sent me… If not, that would explain the loud ‘Oh shit!’ I heard emanating from the direction of label HQ in Canada.

Still, what lurks herein, musically? This is a promising construction, but not the finished article. A gloomy but polished, mid-paced doom base comparable to Daylight Dies, Paradise Lost and the like mingles with more extreme elements (particularly the blackened vocals). It’s a sizeable album- 11 songs lasting an hour- and it could do with far more concision, especially on some of the longer pieces. Things sometimes feel bogged down, like the slow, mournful instrumental passages of the seven-minute Espirit Nosible, in which the riff changes regularly but never really with decisiveness, like a mapless funeral parade on a rainy winter’s day. It takes six minutes for a really strong idea to surface, in the form of a sublimely despondent twin lead melody which to an extent makes it worthwhile.

Indeed, a great deal of this is instrumental, vocals (generally belching and harsh, giving this an extreme metal weight) only surfacing occasionally. In the absence of anything other than middling tempos this means that a great deal of interest-generating responsibility lies with the aforementioned flourishes of melodic activity in the lead guitars. But they themselves are not exactly extrovert, often blurred and faded coyly into the background, making for long passages in which very little seems to be happening. Then at other points, as with the title track, the creativeness of the songwriting is plain to hear, but there's just something in the construction- the jangling feel in the clean guitar breakdowns, perhaps- that feels not quite well-executed enough. Thus it is, unfortunately, that the progressive influences which inspire the band to take an admirably open-ended approach to songwriting also become the real weakness. Climactic epic Nothingness could constitute an expansive and exciting doom metal jam, but I think compositionally and instrumentally The Foetal Mind just aren’t quite ready to give it the flair it needs. Funnily enough, there is only one tune formally described as an Instrumental- and this is a welcome disruption, presenting a downbeat industrial interlude which is indeed closely comparable to compatriots and labelmates netra.

This is an ambitious record with a distinctive approach. There are undeniably strong moments, as with proper opener Big Crunch, which woos you with delicately tuneful, spacily tinkling introduction, before plunging into a classic 90s Paradise Lost churn, and later on sinking down to the very depths of funereal blackened doom. Following quickly, and in exciting counterpoint, comes the pretty prog jam of Silence, but it's after this that things start to get a bit samey. Certainly, The Foetal Mind are certainly worthy of the time of gothic doom-loving souls, but I think (and hope) they will release better albums than The Grand Contraction in their career.

Killing Songs :
Big Cruch, Silence
Charles quoted 70 / 100
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