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Downfall of Gaia - Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes (Metal Blade Records)

By: Mike Sloan

[7.5/10] Apparently the whole Cascadian”black metal thing is still alive and strong these days. There certainly is no shortage of Agalloch and Wolves in the Throne Room-esque artists flooding the metal marketplace. In most cases, the bands that have been polluting the airwaves with what I deem one of the most sleep-inducing subgenres of metal has been sickening and each of the bands, save for the aforementioned Agalloch and WITTR, are unremarkable and unoriginal.

Enter Germany’s Downfall of Gaia, yet another in a long line of Cascadian (can we get a more ridiculous tag?) black metal acts, and their latest album Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes. It’s their debut album for Metal Blade and it’s their second full-length. At first, the opening sounds of “[Vulnus]” instantly brought horrific visions of an hour-long journey of fuzzed-out, despair-ridden chords that will go on and on and one until slumber inevitably consumes the listener.

“Ugh…. this is going to suck!” is what ran through my skull during the first minute or so, but then a miracle happened: Downfall of Gaia is actually not your average copy cat of this subgenre. Shocked, I was.

Once second track “Drowning by Wing Beats” was firing on all cylinders, it was obvious that Downfall of Gaia has something a little unique going for them and that’s the awesome, robust production of the drums. Unlike the whopping majority of bands similar to Downfall of Gaia, the kick drum and floor toms are thunderous and pummel whoever listens. Couple that with frantic riffs and a little sideways battery patterns and what we have is a monstrous song, if there ever was one.

“In the Rivers Bleak” follows and though it hammers out some vicious blast beats, the band switches gears to a more melodic passage about five minutes in; one that is reminiscent of The Red in the Sky is Ours-era At the Gates. Downfall of Gaia eventually switches back to full-on black metal mode, but they don’t go apeshit in a frenzy of nonsensical riffs and blasts. Instead, they opt for a more streamlined, somewhat groovy approach.

The band continues with a cornucopia of tempo changes and various atmospheres with the ten-plus minutes apiece “I Fade Away” and “Beneath the Crown of Cranes.” However, both songs grow a tad wearisome toward the end because of their length and propensity to drag out what are initially good ideas.

All in all, Downfall of Gaia should create a frenzy within the bloated genre of this style of metal and considering how popular the genre has become for now, and with the heft of Metal Blade behind them, they should have no problems gaining a ton of notoriety. Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes is by no means an unbelievable album because it still contains too many elements of Cascadian (or whatever lame label you want to give this) black metal in that sometime the songs reach a stalemate with themselves. However, these dudes do offer a great drum production and enough wrinkles to keep even my fickle pallete tickled.


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