Merchants of Air
exploring the edges of the musical universe
The Waasland, a historic region in Flanders, Belgium, is not a good place to dwell at night. On its soggy soils a hungry wolf lurks, waiting for an unexpecting victim. The animal can wait, lull you to sleep with its soothing atmospheres and subdued mildness, attacking you seconds later with frightening screeches and sharp, distorted claws. I'm not talking about a real wolf. I'm talking about Charnia, a sludge and doom band from that same region who have just unleashed 'Dageraad'.
Dageraad, Dutch for 'dawn', is just that. An album which takes you on a trip through the Waasland's endless peatlands and swamps. We start in Daknam, a small village and a beautiful intro with droning guitars and a very long fade in. Only after a short while we realized that the music was actually playing, slowly creeping up on us.
Mere seconds later the Waaslandwolf sets its claws in your back and its teeth in your throath. The typical sludge shrieks might take some time getting used to, sounding a bit like black metal screams but grizzlier. But once they settle with the heavy guitars and pounding drums the album grows and makes us shake our heads.
Het Dodenhuis (The Ossuary) and Zielsondergang (a wordplay of Soul and Sunset, loosely translated as Soul Downfall) are prime examples of well advised modern day sludge songs. So it's not a surprise that Charnia is often compared with label mates Amenra. The songs alternate between ambient-like pieces and heavy distorted eruptions, creating a trance-like state that is pretty intense.
The final track, Dageraad, is a huge piece of work (over sixteen minutes), probably my favorite of the whole album. You could almost say that it's like the entire album compressed into only one song. The soft guitar drones remind us of acts like Fear Falls Burning or Aidan Baker. When it gets heavier and louder it's almost mindblowing.
Dageraad is an excellent album, constantly changing between doom, sludge, ambient and drones. Yet we feel that Charnia has the potential to evolve even further, both musically and in terms of exposure. This surely is one of the best Belgian acts at this moment.