Written by Kep
Dimwind – The Futility of Breathing
> Instrumental post-metal
> Releasing April 21
> Trepanation Recordings
I’ve reviewed releases from Dimwind twice before (their debut LP Slow Wave Violence and last year’s split with Breaths), and both times I was struck by their ability to convey a depth of emotion and a real sense of narrative in their signature instrumental texture. It’s easy to write music without vocals, but it’s often difficult to make the songs feel like they really mean something. Dimwind’s songwriting, though, has always felt significantly affecting, and the Swedish duo consistently and clearly reveals their emotional center through pure music and the periodic use of spoken word samples.
Given my familiarity with their material, it would be accurate to say that I thought I was prepared for what The Futility of Breathing was going to give me, and it would also be accurate to say that I was absolutely not prepared at all. You see, this is an album about losing a loved one—the days of grief that seem to stand still, the wounded anger, the pressing weight of sorrow—and that’s a poignant thing to write an album about. But The Futility of Breathing was forged in and influenced by the unimaginable, when, during the process of making the album, guitarist Andreas Hansen’s wife suddenly passed away.
As you might expect, the music of this record seems to be shouldering a heavier weight than the band’s previous works. The general format is the same—six expansive tracks of post-metal across three-quarters of an hour, making use of synths as a textural element but primarily focused around riffs that morph between world-weary and burning with barely-submerged rage—but there’s a palpable undercurrent of darkness that wasn’t present in Slow Wave Violence or last year’s split. The measured buildup that begins “Days Subside Ablaze” is a great example, as the band sets the scene with a gently winding line in the guitars that’s underscored by an insistent snare rhythm, and then arrives at the body of its main motif, an intense seething thing with prominent minor seconds that feels like the endless blazing time of the song’s title.
There are moments of peace and something like happiness every now and then, but they’re few and far between. The tension carried in the vast majority of the music is contrasted with what amounts to respites—like the grounded serenity and bell-like ringing melody of the beginning of “The Growing Shadow Gains”—and they feel meaningful as a result. Some of those calmer moments are used to push the album’s concept forward, too, like in the midsection of “Once a Lushful Green”, where the brooding, pressing syncopation that’s carried the song to that point gives way to a spacious darkness of slow ride and ringing chords, over which the first of the record’s spoken word samples is delivered. The voice speaks of the human need to find some meaning, any meaning, in the unbearable pain of grief events. But so much of what makes up The Futility of Breathing is aching and angst, the sort of stuff that’s easy to get lost in as a listener—not that that’s a bad thing—and so “Once” moves away from the sample with a chunkier, less-syncopated riff, a rise of frustration and sorrow, and then eventually hints at a melody over it that’s filled with something that feels almost like hope. You see, Dimwind doesn’t require walls of sound and aggressively distorted angry riffs to achieve those emotions; everything is texture and layering and subtle building.
The songs, as expected, are impressive on a songwriting and theme development level. The layers of sound, motific direction, and seamless transitions of focus are so delightfully understated that it’s easy to just drift with the music before eventually realizing how far from the starting point the music has traveled. Opener “First Light Never Stays” pushes ever forward, bending this way and that, increasing variations and urgency, until finally it reaches an inescapable point of inflection at 3:20, becoming something new as a heartrending melody bursts aloft from a propelling drum fill. The songs all change and morph like this, pushing their themes and ideas organically until they are changed. Things even get dissonant and murky at times, like in spots in the muscular “Withering Unseen”, which depicts that inner turmoil atop the back of thick, lunging motif that feels a bit Tool-ish.
The performances are perfectly suited to the style: neither Hansen or drummer Jonas Eriksson allows flashiness or noodling to distract from their soundscapes, instead opting for brilliantly understated approaches that reveal a wealth of details to the discerning ear of a purposeful listener. The spot-on production lends an assist, providing clarity across the ensemble and a depth of sound that gives color and distinct tone to the many layers. The bass tone is particularly killer; the moving finale “A Feeble Frame Remains”—which also contains a poignant second spoken word sample—features some outstanding focus on Hansen’s quality low-end work.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Futility of Breathing is an album that invites you not just to hear, but to listen and to feel. To follow its motifs and riffs, and to appreciate its sense of direction, but also to feel and understand the people behind it. This is far more than just a work of instrumental post-metal; Dimwind has delivered to us an opus of human spirit, and we would all do well to see ourselves in it somewhere.