Written by Barlovv
They Grieve – To Which I Bore Witness
> Ontario, Canada
> Releasing February 24
> Silent Pendulum Records
Weariness finds its way
And carries the promise of anguish
There are times when I can look at an album cover and just know that it is going to be my shit. Call it just a gut instinct, or maybe just convincing myself that I was right to justify my instinct retroactively, but I’m pretty frequently right and this record from They Grieve is just one more example.
Hailing from Ottawa, Canada, this duo of sweet boys have really got 2023 off to a strong start for this guy with To Which I Bore Witness. An album that is so much my shit that I will quietly resent Silent Pendulum Records for scooping them up before I could (and also for being a demonstrably more successful and together label than me, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about). The press for the album refers to it as post-metal a few times, but this thing slams so hard into doom, drone, and ambient that I wonder why that distinction is being made. And here’s where I stop myself before I go into another tangent about why I am so irritated by genre tags.
The album opens with a fucking beast of a thing called “Wither”, which spends its seven minutes setting the tone for the rest of the record, starting with an almost angelic chant, leading seamlessly into the crunchy and doom-laden vocals that will carry through the rest. Members Gary Thibert and Deniz Güvenç are both credited with vocals, and so without knowing which one it is I have to tip my hat to whoever, as that brings this album to life immediately. “Wither” also sets the tone lyrically and thematically for the rest of the album. The entirety of the lyrics are:
“Failure knows no bounds and makes its home here within me
Endless is the night of its becoming
Cower, collapse, wither”
And fuck me do you ever feel that in your bones, and you feel that carry through the remaining songs. This ability to say very little and have it vibrate through your entire being is not an easy thing to pull off, and brings to mind one of my favourites from last year, Terminal Burrow by Ammothea, but where that album felt like you were standing in a blizzard and screaming into the void, this one feels more like the void is screaming into you and you’re going to fucking feel it. You also carry this with you, through to the end of the album, the final words on the album being “Weakness alone holds me”.
There’s a lot to like about the band musically, and honestly the album stands up on its own. In their materials, They Grieve mention that, despite being a two-piece band, they run the same amount of gear as a four- or five-piece band, with each member pulling double and even triple duty across this album – so the talent and versatility is simply an undeniable thing. You can add to that the fact that the two have been friends for more than a decade, and that much time creates a lot of cohesion and chemistry, and you can absolutely feel that on display here. The music is so deliberate and tight that it makes sense that they’ve been friends so long.
If you needed any more reason to get on board with this record, and to be honest I can’t imagine why what I’ve said so far hasn’t sold you, why not add the fact that Fuck the Facts’ Topon Das from Apartment 2 Recording produced the fucking thing? The dude doesn’t miss, and this is just one more feather in his cap, as kind of a cherry on top of the whole thing.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While I’m not prepared to call To Which I Bore Witness the feel good record of the year, it sure packs a fucking wallop and jumps right into my heart as an exceptional piece of work. You’ll love it, especially if you’re a fan of doom or drone metal – but if either of those labels might deter you from checking this out, then actually its post-metal and you should fucking check it out. An absolute fucking stunner of a thing, which the added bonafides of having been produced at Apartment 2 by Topon Das, there’s a whole lot to get excited about in this album, and you don’t want to be late to the party.