Process of Guilt, Fæmin, Bleak Recordings (2012)
“Fæmin” is the third album by the doom metal band Process of Guilt who hail from Evora in Portugal. Five songs in all dwell on and explore states of mind and being such as emptiness and despair. One-word titles taken together separately from the lyrics suggest a narrative of sinning, reaping the consequences of sin, doing penance and achieving a state beyond … which turns out not necessarily to be grace.
“Empire” is a grand opener to the album, heralded by long drone, a repeating ringing riff and immense thundering percussion beats. The song builds up slowly and steadily, ratcheting up the tension and atmospheric intensity with deft changes and variations in the beats, and occasionally dispelling unease through crashing cymbals and accompanying guitar slash riffs. The vocal is raw and roaring when it appears but much of the track is instrumental. There is just enough guitar in the background in the song’s first half to lend an edgy, abrasive noise texture to proceedings, otherwise that part of the track is almost completely dominated by percussion. Suddenly the tension breaks forth and guitars and drums literally gush out with force and pent-up fury and vocalist Hugo Santos roars out his anger.
The harsh guitar noise textures continue into “Blindfold” which is a plea to face the truth of one’s existence and discontinue living a life based on lies, greed and cowardice. The percussion is strong and seems to encourage the rest of the music to flow. Now lead guitar is allowed to soar high in piercing anguished tones. The climax erupts in wave after wave of guitar molasses driven by rolling drums, and soon the song ends on a prolonged guitar feedback drone that links to “Harvest”: this is a stately dark piece with a screeching guitar feedback echo in some parts and a screaming vocal amid rather more laid-back drumming than what’s gone before and a harsh steely guitar noise layer. The lead guitar has a slightly wobbly tone that introduces a slight feeling of fear and impending horror.
“Cleanse” appears to be a warning of doom to those of us who continue living by falsehood: the song is suitably doomy in its use of space and echo to sculpt the guitar tones and riffs and induce a sense of darkening despair as the world starts to cave in on us. The percussion sticks to its usual time-keeping function while lead guitar blats clear-toned resonant riffs and a grinding bass rhythm provides the harshness that adds to the song’s sense of impending fate. The song breaks into a rolling climax which ends on an extended feedback drone, similar to “Blindfold” in its ending.
The title track is a strong crunchy conclusion to the album and the messages it has thrown up along the way: the song expresses total despair at the physical and existential darkness that has engulfed humanity, perhaps forever.
“Fæmin” is a solid and dependable effort where the musicians know exactly what to do and what’s expected of them, and deliver precisely to those expectations. Songs are fairly similar in their structure: they build up and up on repeating riffs and constant rhythms to a climax that opens the flood-gates and allows the reined-in tension and anger to rush through but in a controlled way. Songs may end abruptly or sound off on an extended high-pitched feedback drone. The style of music seems to be as much influenced by hardcore elements as sludge doom and death metal; there is real if restrained anger in the vocals and the music is very straightforward and business-like. Rarely does the lead guitar zing off on unexpected solo journeys. Everyone works to a common cause and there’s no deviation.