Deha & Marla van Horn – “Earth and Her Decay” (Ambient Doom Metal)

Written by: Valkyrjiaa

Release Date: February 18th, 2022

Ambient Doom Metal from Brussels, Belgium

Label: Burning World Records

Having written more than twenty releases over the last three years, it’s said that Brussels-based multi-instrumentalist project Deha has built up more than a prolific reputation yet has remained as an irreverent artist in the alternative metal scene.

The newest album, titled Earth and Her Decay, sees the Belgian artist combine forces with Marla Van Horn to create a sound that is both terrifying and intriguing, light, and depressing. There is an aching sense of hurt and decay that permeates through each of the six tracks as the duo prioritizes dark ambiance, angelic vocals, painful screams, and slow-moving rhythms to create a bleak and frightful atmosphere.

The first track, with a video released over on YouTube, is “Purification Ritual”. It starts out innocently enough with an almost Gladiator-soundtrack sort of feel, using background vocals to build a light yet mysterious atmosphere. As the instrumentals build, it holds the same sense but, the golden fields of wheat, and the peace of death is shadowed by the pale faces of the homeless undead; those who still seek to live. It’s an oddly light-hearted track that notes desperation and dread with its heavy tones yet, holds a strange optimism in its backing vocals.

At 8-minutes in length, “Nowhere” envelopes us in a haunting swirl of wisps and cloud. There is a sense of longing and betrayal in this melody, with eyes panning in slow-motion across a bloodied battlefield filled with rot and decay. The gentle vocals on this track are terrifying, sinking into your core to build feelings of gloom and hopelessness. Every lingering note is another step forward through the broken bones and torn flesh of those you once loved, offering up clenched fists and closed eyes as if to delay the terror now settling into your heart.

“Dust and Rain” seems to denote a cleansing, or freedom yet this heavy, slinking track provides none. There is no freedom, only blackness and decomposition as this track quickly breaks down into a melody of torment. Tortured screams rupture the tune, churning stomachs and giving sickening background noise to an already otherworldly horror. It’s as if we’re wandering blindly, lured forward only be anguished screams and tormented cries uncertain if we search for remedy or rebirth on a journey that’s likely to tear us apart.

The fourth track in is “Black Blood” that begins with striking piano keys in an airy, light-hearted fashion. As we are no strangers to this album’s depressing atmosphere and bleak creations, we hear a voice cry out to us, “I am forsaken, by Angels and Demons alike” as if we are truly lost, belonging nowhere, and with no one as we journey across this endless void. The vocals add a layer of desperation and intensity to a track already ripe with sorrow and tragedy to give us an irrevocable display of raw emotion. It’s absolutely heart-wrenching, fueled by the already established doomed atmosphere and cranks this album up to eleven.

The contrasting track, “White Blood” sees our hurt temporarily alleviated, painting the air with high notes and relief that has the scent of sweetened air before a storm. It’s as if we’re being given a chance to rest, all while the war still rages around us. In the distance, a great fire burns, with smoke scrawling through the air to paint the horizon a crimson red. We linger in the long grass, the wind whirling around us as we cling to the last threads of hope, eyes filled with tears while musical delicacy cascades around us. Such beauty is fleeting in a track that tears through us like spear through flesh as the fire is upon us, and the shrill cries of innocence lost echoes into the blackened sky. The horrors come tenfold, and we must make our choice – do you fight? Or do you flee?

The final track of this album is “Dead Leaves” that heightens the atmosphere to one of uncertainty yet still offering those hopeful highs. Once again suspicious of this album and its true intentions, we are echoed in by delicate vocals, battered by heavy bass that once more sets dread upon our form. Harsh vocals grind us down, taking what little hope we have left and putting a halt to our dreams for the future. It’s a song that truly drags out the anguish and pain of a vivid hellscape that’s only grown as this album has progressed with light vocals offering little relief to our torment.

The Bottom Line

This album is truly an unsettling display of the contrasting bits of love and loss, pessimism and optimism when faced with unsurmountable doom. There are moments of light and life, in an atmosphere that’s weighed down by the essence of death and decay. I cannot express my adoration for the atmospheric and musical complexities that are utilized in this creation that not only paints vivid images of pain, and hopelessness but, does so by combining rich vocals with extraordinary instrumentals that I have, quite honestly, never heard before.

Favourite Tracks: Black Blood, White Blood