Portland doom quartet USNEA return with their third full-length, the crushingly potent Portals Into Futility.
Inspired by dystopian science-fiction and the painful intersection of today’s crushing reality, the utter darkness of Portals Into Futility engulfs the senses amidst a framework of funeral doom and sludge and black metal elements. This is the kind of shit that could extinguish the light from the sun, so bleak and suffocatingly morose that even funeral doom pioneers Thergothon might think twice about dwelling in such dark corners.
While these huge, cinematic compositions may appear hard-going on paper – we’re talking 5 tracks in 56 minutes – Usnea’s sharp use of dynamics and varied vocal styles result in a surprisingly textured experience. An experience that requires a stomach strong enough to savour such discordant doom but hardened souls will undoubtedly welcome Portals Into Futility into their fold.
As expected, abject despair, overwhelming sadness and pure misery inform Portals Into Futility and you have to appreciate Usnea’s ability to convey these emotions with as much clarity as they do. With a flesh-crawling viscosity, the thick rumbling underbelly of Usnea’s tone can induce nausea while the death-growls of vocalist Joel Banishing chill the soul but these aren’t empty noises, pre-programmed to be ‘heavy’ just for the sake of it.
Instead, the band have immersed themselves in dystopian ideas and buried themselves in literature including political and cultural sci-fi masterworks such as Gene Wolfe’s Shadow of the Torturer, Ursula K Le Guin’s Lathe of Heaven, Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World (a song-title, incidentally), Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Philip K Dick’s Valis, and Frank Herbert’s Dune in order to fully communicate their intent. Here lies commentary on man’s innate ability to fuck things up, backed by an intelligent framework that seeks to reflect on religion, technology and the cold, hard reality of man’s dire place in the world.
Heavy, in every sense of the word!
Fortunately, there are moments of respite with the relatively delicate opening of the 19 minute(!) “A Crown Of Desolation” offering a semblance of hope, but it’s not long before doom riffs hammer you back into the ground, removing any notion you may have had of a positive future.
Resistance is futile, extinction is inevitable. But, in the meantime, you could at least turn your ear to Portals Into Futility and make your withering existence at least semi-worthwhile! 8/10