On Beldam‘s debut Still the Wretched Linger, this four piece from Virginia seem to know a thing or two about creating a creepy, misanthropic vibe. It’s slow, akin to doom yet reeks of rotting death metal courtesy of some gnarly vomit style vocals. The journey from beginning to end of this album is not one to make in the wrong emotional state. It is in no way a feel good album but that’s exactly what Beldam seems to want — to drag the listener to the depths of despair and hold them there. The only problem is there’s not enough to keep you chained to the bottom of the coffin.
Death and doom go together like thunder and lightning, particularly when done correctly. The results can be intense, especially when paired with nasty cover art and equally nasty lyrical themes. Beldam attempts it all here — death, loss, sadness, and utter desparity. Normally this kind of thing is reserved for the funereal branch of doom and on “From Grave To Cradle” the sadness of the twin guitar harmonies sounds similar to the heavyweights of mournful doom, Loss. But just as they can feel right at home in the mortuary they also can fit in with the downtrodden anguish of Primitive Man on “Salamander”. In the midst of the sludgy riffs there’s a hint of violence just under the surface that makes itself known towards the end of the track with quicker paced death metal and haunting vocals.
Outside of an angular, jazzy guitar solo in “The Foundling” and some of the most horrific vocals heard since the dangerous days of Mayhem in “Beauty’s Martyr” this album quickly slides into the depths of repetitiveness. One track bleeds into the next and before you know it 40 plus minutes have ticked off and whichever end is up is truly hard to make out. Of course this type of music has been and is built on the same riffs and drum beats over and over to infinity but to pull this off there has to be enough going on to remember what exactly it is you just heard.
Unfortunately that’s not the case here. Barring some truly intense moments as previously mentioned — Bedlam can quite possibly scare the hell out of the unsuspecting listener at louder volumes — it falls flat on repeated listens. The case for horrific sounds is made well, this could even be the soundtrack to a truly deranged horror film. However, the repetitive songwriting and structuring are too much to overcome by the end and even more so on successive spins.
Even though repetition plagues Still the Wretched Linger, Beldam do show promise in their cavernous and barbaric death / doom mixture. If they can keep their devilishly sinister approach intact and explore the angular death metal side, that was toyed with here, a little more on the next effort they could truly break through with an inspired performance and greatly expand on this tried and true arena of metal.