Monday, 10 June 2013

Pombagira - Maleficia Lamiah (album review)

Cover artwork by Matt Doughty & Neil Harding.
Being so new to the field of doom metal has its benefits.  One of them is discovering all the amazing bands that exist within the hallowed tombs of the genre all at once.  Bands that have an established presence and extensive discography.  You get all the discovery without any of the baggage of expectation.  One of them is London, England's Pombagira.  They've been releasing albums for some five years now but their latest, 'Maleficia Lamiah' is my first taste of the duo (Pete & Carolyn).  I discovered them via Dr. Doom's Lair and was swayed by the Lord of Latveria's glowing words, but wasn't sure what to expect when I finally saw the tracklist.

Normally I don't do the 40 minute, two song kind of albums.  I like Acid Mothers Temple and their hour long songs, but typically, the overly long compositions don't grab me.  I like my music either short, sweet and to the point or around the world in under 8 minutes.  That all goes out the window though with Pombagira because they paradoxically do both in a longer format.  It really takes some doing to stop 18 and 22 minute songs from getting boring or lagging, especially those of the slower variety (see "Grave Cardinal").  They do it using the age old secret of a dynamic song structure.  Instead of droning on with one or two riffs, Pombagira incorporate several sections of music with ambient or exploratory bridges into single, yet still catchy, compositions.

Opus one, the title track, "Maleficia Lamiah" is just an incredible piece of music.  I would have never expected to ever find myself repeating the words "Maleficia" and "Lamiah" over an over again, but it's a damn catchy tune with a damn catchy chorus.  The first five minute section of this song will have you finishing your Latin and Greek homework on time for once (or at least finding an institution that offers such courses here in the dumbed-down future we find ourselves in).  It has me "googling" that's for sure.  "Maleficia", it turns out is the name given to the heinous and hideous acts of witchcraft.  Very cool.  It also helps illuminate slightly the title of the Heinrich Kramer, James Sprenger torture manual Malleus Maleficarum (1487), I've got the book on my shelf (I should get around to reading it).  The title of the book translates to "the hammer of witches", but I better understand it now as "the hammer of evil" as witches at that time were seen as the living embodiment of all things evil in mankind but would better be understood, yet again as all things distorted by man's cultural sexual sublimation, manifested as deep distrust of and even disdain for women.  It all ties in with ideas of original sin and temptation and it's all fucked.  Anyway, Lamia was a beautiful queen of Libya in Greek mythology who turned into a hideous child-eating demon.  Also cool.  I'm still not sure what it all means so I turn to my trusty lyric sleeve that comes with the CD and ... I'm still too stupid to understand, but damn if I don't dig the way it sounds.  Section two is a psychedelic soundscape, spilling into a vortex of reverb and dischordant swells, the passing of which is heralded by birdsong into the next section.  Section three is a largely acoustic and understated journey back to the main verse/chorus section of the song.  Like I said, it's a tour de force and an absolutely timeless manuscript on how to tell a story through music and how to make a long song dynamic without ever flagging interest in the listener.

As mentioned earlier, "Grave Cardinal" is the slower of the two compositions found here.  Autumnal feelings in a loam padded forest of dead trees, crisp air like sparkling little daggers in the lungs and there's some ... thing after you.  Buzz saw riffs slice through serenity creating paranoia which eventually slows down to survey the surroundings.  Another excellent vocal melody characterizes the lyrical sections of the song.  The listener never really gets settled in here, before they are whisked away by fear caused by sudden movements and noises without origin.  The buzzsaw riff torches peace and comfort even further, this is the point in the story the song paints in my mind that the listener finds an axe in a tree stump and a rope tied loosely around a tall branch, miles deep in the woods far from help or home.  This is also when the listener in the story realizes that the malignant force chasing them is making him choose the instrument of his own demise.  About halfway through the track, the organ is brought out and brings to mind some 'Dark Side of the Moon' era Pink Floyd, but this is (thankfully) darker and heavier than any song Pink Floyd ever did (aside perhaps from "The Massed Gadgets of Hercules" demo which eventually became "Careful with that Axe, Eugene").

Photo by Vic Singh.
Long compositions and instrumental music can do amazing things, it can create wonders undreamt of in the mind.  I feel indebted to Pombagira for seeding mine with such vivid pictures.  At the end of the day I can't decide which side of the record I dig more, the immediately catchy and accessible but ultimately more exploratory and contemplative side A title track or the slower and moodier but altogether more 'together' and sonically consistent side B.  I dig them both.  Yeah, definitely a halloween-y vibe on the latter side, but still, side A's got some powerful moments ... It could go on forever.  I like them both.

Through the careful use of minor chords for counterpoint and some distantly wailed background harmonies 'Maleficia Lamiah' becomes an emotionally charged album with stunning depth.  Cryptically, I will say, in the winter time, this is woods music, in the summer time this is seaside / beach music but only reserved for the most suppressingly hot and heavy days.

Rating: 4/5

1). Maleficia Lamiah (18:51)
2). Grave Cardinal (22:06)
Total Run Time: 40:56

From: London, England

Genre: Doom, Psychedelic

Reminds me of: Overall, nothing I've seen or heard.

Release Date: March 18, 2013

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: When you're deep in the woods like that do you choose the axe or the rope?  Which one's more useful to you?

Better Review:
Dr. Doom's Lair

The Obelisk interview

Pombagira facebook


Special thanks to Dr. Doom's Lair, for introducing me to Pombagira (see link above)


  1. Welp, just finished this album, missed this review but discovered via the Doom Charts. Man this is some cool stuff. I agree with you 99% on your review. I normally can't do the 2-song century long albums, but this does it well not just that plodding drone that seems to get a lot of the 20 minute song bands in trouble with me. Can't decide which track I like better. Both have highlights.

    1. Yeah, exactly! It's one of those dishes on the menu that tastes better than it looks ... or something.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...