In all honesty, it shocks me that doom metal still continues to be made to this day. You'd assume that a style that dates back almost fifty years would have lost its spark, especially considering the simplicity that the subgenre holds tightly. Fortunately for the fans and artists within the community, the supply and demand continues to flow quite smoothly. While part of me questions if there will inevitably be a time to throw in the towel, I'd agree in that the mere fact that new and flourished bands alike are still maintaining the slow bass-y grooves is proof alone there must be substance deeply rooted within doom.
Livid began in 2013 with an instrumental post rock style and later turned heavier and more bold as demonstrated in the experimental doom aspects of Beneath This Shroud, The Earth Erodes, their full-length debut released via Prosthetic Records. This Minneapolis-based act consists of frontman Cole Benson, guitarist Swen, bassist Chad Padelford, and drummer Tim Leick.
Opening piece, "Descend," is certainly an unexpected musical choice to begin a doom record as a reverb and delay concentrated guitar noodling lasts for a near five minutes. Although I understand the need for tension and suspense, I feel as if the track could have had a more significant impact if truncated in half. Anyone familiar with this subgenre has definite expectations of a suspenseful intro leading up to an explosive down-tuned groove, but the climax didn't pay off as much as I'd hoped. While momentum was lost, the redeeming factor was revealed to be Cole Benson's quite commanding vocals displayed on "Nothing," which dip low to a Big Business or Melvins range. There is one point that sounded very similar to a Helms Alee track as well in regards to the vocal delivery and sludgy tone.
In the same vein of other doom-driven bands, Livid excels through a somewhat noticeable evolution consisting of slow, subtle shifts. "Sins of God" displays this successfully as the group only shares approximately three different riffs throughout the nine minute piece. Considering the decent length as well as how the following two pieces are even longer, I won't deny that the band have a habit of taking their sweet time in revealing each new aspect, but I would argue that the tracks have fluidity and clear progression. While the doom characteristics were clearly established on the past couple songs, "The Fire" and "Into Nothing" solidify the element of experimentation. While maintaining the dragging pace and sludgy tone, these two compositions delve slightly into post-metal territory at parts with their mesmerizingly sinister atmospheres.
Although the music overpowers the lyrical content, I feel it shouldn't be overlooked as the common themes seem to be unusual considering doom has a propensity for psychedelic and H.P. Lovecraft worship instead of political banter. Yes, politically-driven songs have certainly been staples in some doom-based bands' catalog, but perhaps not in the scope of an entire album and regarding modern politics. Benson's frustration with the outcome of the recent US Presidential election swayed the lyricist to rewrite most of the songs in order to parallel what he imagined to be a less optimistic future.
In the end, it's difficult to argue that this album is absolutely revolutionary. As aforementioned, the doom metal subgenre has its fair share of gray hairs and the formula of the style has been well established. However, I'd push for any fans of this style to give Livid a try because they have a few experimental tricks up their sleeves. Beneath This Shroud, The Earth Erodes shows the up and down quality expected on a debut LP, yet also a promising start of a group that I hope will push the boundaries of ambient doom even farther.