Long, long ago (1995 to be exact), an unheralded Green Bay, Wisconsin act named Dusk threw their hat in the death-doom arena and dropped a short debut titled …Majestic Thou in Ruin. I stumbled upon it in a record store while in law school and bought it based entirely on its tranquil cover art. I was quite taken with what was inside too, and the band’s rough, raw, yet highly atmospheric style resonated deeply. Dusk walked the same morose and tortured territory as diSEMBOWELMENT, but they opted to stick closer to the doom side of things, at times almost venturing into early My Dying Bride / Anathema soundscapes. The album was quite striking for the time with beauty and charm all its own. I relied on it often as a de-stressor throughout the rigors of law school and especially loved playing it during snow storms while residing in upstate New York. As much as I enjoyed …Majectic, Dusk dropped off my radar after that since they never released a follow-up. Since then, a bunch of other bands have assumed the Dusk mantle, so when I saw the promo for Dissolve into Ash, it didn’t initially occur to me that this would be those mysterious Wisconsiners back after 28 long years. Yet back they are with almost the same lineup and newly inspired by the isolation of the COVID lockdown. With virtually no chance of this recapturing the oddball magic of a bygone era, I went into Dissolve into Ash with well-managed expectations but secretly hoped for another blizzard beast of a platter.
Whatever cryofreeze these cats were locked in, it certainly preserved them well, though their overall approach is somewhat different now. Opener “Beacon Obscured” is a shockingly good piece of doom with heavy riffs pounding you as death roars pair with ethereal female vocals. Though the debut featured female vocals too, they play a larger role here, making them sound like a meaner version of Draconian with traces of Novembers Doom. The writing wrings the most emotion and drama possible from the beauty and the beast vocals, and the riffs are heavy enough to balance out the dialed-up Gothic edge. This is way heavier and more grinding than the usual Gothic doom outing, and cuts like “The Dim Divide” and “Ancient Passage” are borderline sludge in their abrasive, raw delivery. The nearly 8-minute “Libations Offered” is a big highpoint, with a grinding pace and raw vocals creating a massive and hypnotic groove that feels inexorable and unstoppable.
The album has a well-thought-out pace and though things remain locked firmly in heavy doom dirge mode almost the whole time, effective writing largely keeps things interesting. More importantly, things are kept very heavy. “Shrouded in Mist” feels like a proper death metal monster that just got hit with a tranq dart and is fighting the effects as it keeps coming after you slower and slower. Sadly, at over 8 minutes, you may wish the beast fell sooner. While no track is bad or filler-grade, there is some bloat here and there, and some cuts are good, but can’t rise to that next level. It’s also striking how little this album sounds like the debut. That’s understandable after so long a gap, but I want more of the olden days sound to seep in. At just under 49 minutes, Dissolve into Ash just manages to escape feeling overlong, and a few minutes could be chipped off the longer cuts without harming them. I’m a big fan of the production here which gives the guitars a threatening largeness and the drums a bone-shaking force.
The riffs that churn and pulsate across Dissolve Into Ash are the star of the show. Tim Beyer and Steve Gross do a good job of finding that sweet spot between mournful doom leads and skull-crushingly heavy riffs that owe more to sludge and death metal. The interplay of these elements is the key to making the compositions hum, and this they generally do. There are slight touches of black metal around the edges and a rough, ugly feel is well maintained. Steve Crane’s raspy, raw death vocals go down well, though I sometimes want him to go more subterranean. Dana Ignarski has a lovely voice and imparts an air of grace and beauty to what is an ugly platter. She’s used sparingly and quite well.
I’ll chalk up Dissolve into Ash as a happy surprise and credit Dusk for sounding way better than they have a right to after being defunct for more than a quarter of a century. There’s enough here to make me hope to hear more from them, and this is good enough to garner attention and some new fans. That said, I’d still recommend checking out the debut. I’d call it a cult classic, but I’m not sure enough people know the album to form a proper cult. This should be remedied and now is as good a time as any. Give this a try and then get thee to the past.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps
Label: Dark Symphonies
Websites: duskusaofficial.com | duskusaofficial.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/duskusaofficial
Releases Worldwide: December 8th, 2023