Written by Kep
Devastating Light – I Have Already Failed You
Post-metal from Finland
Released January 9, 2021
Depression is a difficult subject to approach no matter the medium. How do we address something that is so intensely personal in a meaningful way, a way that isn’t cliched or trite, and in a manner that both respects the human behind the depression and is honest about the effects it has on others? There’s no one right answer, and it’s likely that every person will feel a bit different about it. One thing is for sure, and that is that music is the most personal and intimate of art forms, and every person who gives voice to their struggles is to be commended for bearing an extremely tender part of their soul to the listener.
With that in mind, let’s talk about I Have Already Failed You, the debut release from Devastating Light, a solo project from Teemu Toikka. This effort is a transparently personal concept album of doomy post-metal: every instrument played, every tortured scream, and every step of recording, mixing, and mastering was done by Toikka himself. This is the kind of music in which you can hear the emotional presence of the artist in each and every second from start to finish. If you listened to last year’s Obliviosus by MSW, you’ll be familiar with the overall atmosphere.
I Have Already Failed You is made up of three tracks, but the doom influence is strong here: they are all decently lengthy, with the shortest of the tracks, opener “I”, sitting at over eight minutes. The mood is clear from moment that the first somber guitar breaks sorrowfully through the opening of quiet record static: Devastating Light is stepping slowly but with purpose into a sonic exploration of the deep, murky pool of depression and all of the heartache that lies at its bottom. The concept behind this EP is simple, but the themes and emotions are complex: this is the story of a man who is a first-time father, as he strugges with depression in a time when the world seems to be falling to pieces. It’s heavy, heavy stuff.
The music of I Have Already Failed You is relatively simple. The tempos are slow, and the songwriting is straightforward, perhaps intentionally to focus attention to the subject matter. There are quiet passages of mournful guitar, sometimes accompanied by a spare bass line, juxtaposed against loud, trudging chordal riffs that are haunted by anguished screams. The guitar itself is characterized by a fuzzy edge, one that reminds me vaguely of the low-fi tone quality of depressive black metal bands like None. It’s a full sound but not a particularly weighty one, so I appreciated the thick, substantial bass, which satisfyingly fills out the sound. The bass has a few moments in which it really shines, like at 4:05 of “I”, where there’s a minute and a half worth of a despondent but clearheaded bass line accompanied by nothing other than simple drums and a few spare guitar chords. It feels like Toikka is doing some frank self-evaluation in the notes of that bass solo, and it was one of my favorite moments on the album.
As you might expect, the lyrics are profoundly personal, and I doubt most listeners will be able to hear them without being moved. Melancholy passages of lyrics stand out across the entire album. One such place is in “II”, over a chugging riff that makes heavy use of the opening three notes of the minor scale. Toikka screams, “A sea of pain / I can’t help myself / I think no one can / the dark consumes me / the light destroys me.” The hopelessness is palpable. However, it’s in “III”, where the lyrics turn directly toward the subject of parenthood, that I was most moved. Near the end of the album, after a thoughtful guitar melody highlights the final interlude, a massive riff thunders us back to reality as the vocals plead “Do not become like me / that is all I ask.” A few moments later, when Toikka desperately repeats “I’m sorry” and then cries “It was all my fault,” I found myself getting choked up. There’s no disputing how poignant I Have Already Failed You is, and how perfectly its title encapsulates its central idea.
Now for the hard part. I’m loathe to do much critiquing of such an intimate and moving work, but there are things that I don’t love about this record. The majority of my complaints center around the songwriting. There’s a fairly basic, predictable pattern that Toikka follows: a quiet, somber section with a repeated riff, then a full, loud section with vocals entering at the end of the first repetition of the riff. It’s effective once, even twice, but when all 28 minutes of the album are made of this quiet/loud/quiet/loud/quiet/loud pattern, it loses its potency. The music is also positively begging for more: an ornamented version of a guitar line so there’s less straight repetition, a melodic solo, clean vocals, *something*. There’s a moment nearly three minutes into “II” where I thought Toikka was leading into a solo and I leaned forward with interest, but it never happened. The album just feels like it’s a few special moments short of being a truly complete effort.
Nonetheless, Devastating Light’s first release is one that is absolutely worth your time and support. Teemu Toikka has bared his soul in a way that feels authentic and intimate, and what he has created is moving and evocative despite its flaws. I Have Already Failed You will have an effect on you, and what more can you ask of a piece of art?
Favorite track: III