Years ago, my family and I went to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. My oldest daughter and I, being the more adventurous and swimmerly of the crew (my youngest may be staking claim to that throne though), were out in the Atlantic, swimming and playing in the waves.
She had gone back to shore, and I was still out in the water. Shortly, I realized that I was actually getting further away from the shore. Yes, I was caught in a current and being pulled out to sea. As the saline waves cascaded over me, I had a brief moment when I truly thought that I might die. The ocean, so vast, so unfathomable, so uncaring for us mere mortals, had me in its relentless grasp, and cared not one whit about me or my plight. That inexorable current was all that mattered to me, I had to escape. Being honest with myself, at that moment, I felt a dread like none I have ever felt in my life.
I’ve been held up at gunpoint, I’ve been nearly plummeted off a steep washout with the river a hundred feet or more below me, I’ve been in biking accidents where I hit my head hard enough to lose consciousness. I’ve felt fear.
Yet never before, and never since, have I known dread as I knew it that day, in the clutches of the inhuman deep.
Slow, a two person band hailing from Belgium, must have felt similar dread at some point. The music of IV – Dantalion perfectly encapsulates that same sense of dread and helplessness I felt, embraced by the Atlantic.
Slow could not be more appropriately named. This is funeral doom at its finest. The music is incredibly slow, almost suffocatingly so. Songs march with an aptly funereal pace, feeling inevitable in their progression toward some sort of finality. And that finality is not going to be some happy occurrence. Seven tracks, with the album weighing in at a hefty 78 minutes, this isn’t a casual listen.
And yet I find it incredibly compelling. There is sadness here. There is loss, pain, fear. I think we all identify with those feelings. And while these may not be pleasant, the musical conveyance of said emotions carries with it a profound power. It allows us to process some of these feelings. It creates and atmosphere in which we can become introspective, looking inward and discovering a strength inside ourselves to overcome the vagaries that life will throw our way.
It is that cathartic ability I find so profound in the music of Slow. The guitars are heavy, crushingly so. The vocals, predominantly deep and throat ripping growls. The drums march out a sepulchral beat, relentless in their march. Yet layered over all this are beautiful keys and effects, almost sounding choral at times. When the music does increase in tempo, it is often simply in service of propelling one to the unavoidable conclusion.
Yet, buried in this doom, these moments of beauty and clarity serve to provide glimmers of hope. I don’t finish IV – Dantalion and feel like the hero has won, evil has been vanquished, and all is right in the world. But it doesn’t end feeling as though all is lost. Slow is music for realists. It is for those who know life can suck, but that we can fight back and make it through. This isn’t anthemic music to get you pumped to push on. But it reminds you that overcoming is part of the trial of life, and the ultimate goal for us all. We get kicked, we get beat, we are tired, fed up, worn out. But we persist.
In the end, Slow play music for those who are willing to be just as relentless as the ocean. And some days, relentless is the very best we can possibly be.