Barriers are meant to be broken folks. And, with that in mind, this humble writer assumes that it was only a matter of time before the soul-crushing nihilism of black metal acts merged with the soul-crushing yet abstract nihilism of their newer drone metal brothers with increasing frequency. I think what did it (at least for the quasi-mainstreamers out there in the metal community) was 2005's Black One by Sunn-O))), the world's foremost shamans of evil, grim drone/doom. Spurned on by a so-called return to that act's "black metal inspiration," that album saw the band playing ultra-slow, utterly monotone, black metal riffs forever, in a sort of eternal quagmire of despair. Guest appearances by Malefic of Xasthur (USBM's poster-boy I might add) and Sunn-O)))'s various choices to reference acts like Bathory, Vlad Tepes, and the like in their new sound, all added to the fervor. One should also remember the guest vocals from Attilla Csihar from Mayhem on 2004's White2. All-in-all, the scenes of both genres were ripe for hybrids and inbreds alike....
So are New Jersey's March into the Sea a perfectly meshed combination of black metal, doom, drone, and crust, all the most evil of metal genres? Or, are they simply a piss-poor hodgepodge of varied styles, the end result being a boring, jumbled mess? The pendulum on paper could have swung either way; the band describes themselves as being "doom-encrusted nihilism," and few supporters of America's booming black metal community would be quick to forget drummer/vocalist/effects specialist, N. Imperial, whose blackened thoughts have been used to further the cause of bands such as Twilight, Krieg, Judas Iscariot, and Weltnacht, amongst others. With so much potential, is this the perfect squalor or only dirty, rotten rip-offs from the greats? Bored on a long road-trip, I spun Purge agin and again trying to decide. After much reflection, Purge runs into a roadblock or two on the fact it is too human. Throughout the sixteen minute demo, you can see a band just starting to explore what depths of depression they can dive to, and a whiff of much evolved potential on later albums is always present. As much as you'd think this was a great thing, it actually hurts the disc in a way. In my opinion, drone/doom as a genre works as it is so alienated, inhuman, and utterly bleak that humanity or personal failings appear microscopic, even pointless. The fact March into the Sea comes across as a new band on this demo means that it is very hard to establish a truly smothering blanket of dejected apathy on this disc, unlike veterans and the elite of the genre. Hell, maybe I'm putting way too much thought into this, and my mind is still reeling from the excellent piece of nuclear-smoked funeral drone doom that was Moss and their Cthonic Rites...
Regardless, things start off pretty promising with a sweet, low-end riff soaked in pitch on "Ouroboros." Blacker than the heart of Satan, the riff slowly but surely cuts your throat with a pendulum-blade of intensity. Imperial's vocals soon spew forth in largely cryptic howls of disgust and cemetery-vomit screeches, all while the song itself oozes forth into a droning piece of patient malice. As cool as that sounds, I got the feeling that things could have been even darker, pumped full of more wicked hatred, and fueled with misanthropy to the nth degree. Instead, the song wallows in a decent atmosphere that leaves you wanting more; the band is to be commended for learning so fast (after all, this is a new venture musically for the lot of the) but after hearing some of the greats (Hellhammer meeting hanate/Sunn-O))) perhaps?) a little bit more hellish filth is desired. To wit, the song also ends in a rather formulaic, concrete way not befitting drone. Rather than meandering like you'd expect it too, that droning portion soon gives way into the initial wicked riff, a nice touch to rock out to, but one that you can see coming a mile away and isn't too unexpected. From a conceptual standpoint however, the move makes sense as the "Ouroboros" in question is an occult symbol of the snake biting its own tail, and meant to represent the circular futility of existence and history. With that way of looking at it, the song's eventual 360 turn back to start may be predictable, but at least makes sense, and later on it is apparent the band can also do more abstract pieces as well, so it is a minor gripe at best.
"Voidswimmer" is much better than the solid first track, showing even more matured patterns of nihilistic destruction. The opening moans of despair coupled with low-growls and cavern-belches of noxious amp emissions really kicks ass, and the band already sounds like their sound is growing increasingly thick, choking, and heavy. What makes this track so much more powerful than "Ouroboros" is its sense of natural progression; never once do the changes or patterns feel forced, as the band patiently forces you to sink with rocks in your pocket into the dank depths of Davy Jone's locker.
Towards the end, they even throw a sense of shuffling urgency at you, like that demented zombie seeing your face and coming to rip it off despite its decayed tendons. Ugly yet gripping, the song ends the album on a high note.
In short, a worthy start and a decent demo. The band have a solid name (though apparently, they don't like Pelican references), a nice backstory what with the other bands they've played in, fantastic artwork (I absorbed it entirely once it arrived in my mail) and songs that are just hatching from the shell but have yet to spread their leathery, diabolical wings and take flight. Watch the skies.