A universal history of grave mistakes

Four years ago, within the contemporary Aus-US post metal/rock scenes and a broader field of darkly progressive bands, Campbelltown’s We Lost the Sea proved to be a breakout hit.

Inspired by personal tragedy borne from the death of vocalist Chris Torpy two years prior, the heavily affected group re-modelled their sound and fused their creative intellect together to create the conceptual odyssey of Departure Songs in 2015. Lingering with an ever-present melancholic awareness for the darkness of our world, the album was inspired by honourable failures in human endeavour. For the duration of Departure Songs and the group’s live rendition of the full album from Belgium’s Dunk!festival, We Lost the Sea pay creative homage to the focus of grim and consequential circumstances. The chosen topics are polar, nuclear, diving, and space missions, all made famous through the impact their resulting failure had on civilisation.

Three guitars, with bass, drums and various effects definitely prove an intimidating presence in any live environment, and they are utilised here through experimental and pummelling walls of immense sound. The six players themselves comfortably maintain a palpable sense of empathy for the context of historical grounding is comfortably maintained by the six musicians present on these five tracks. This release could almost be an EP if We Lost the Sea had trimmed the 20 minutes of ‘Challenger Part 1 – Flight’ down to a more condensed length, but this would have reduced the emotional weight and clarity of the story that inspired the track.

Proving equally ominous and dark with the use of simple soundscapes and bass drones as opposed to being in full seismic shift, one is not to be surprised by the additional inclusion of sombre and quiet electric patterns throughout the performance’s entirety. Slicing constantly through the live mix at a desired volume, explosive, unhinged snare hits constantly propel the tidally shifting polyrhythms into overdrive. On ‘Bogatyri’s radioactively-themed closing pattern, and the end of ‘Challenger Part 2 – A Swan Song’, the music roars towards a cataclysmic finale of distortion, effects and cymbals before a huge sonic wave washes everything away, representing the brute force and loudness of the group’s night in Belgium. Congratulations to the sound team, whose highly advanced and expertly executed recording set-up captures the pieces at their utmost vitality and depth. This is musical expression to believe in.

In 2015, Departure Songs found fans in the likes of Ricky Gervais, who recently featured ‘A Gallant Gentleman’ on the Netflix show After Life, with the song proving popular due to its heavy vocal aspect of a Sydney choir. Live At Dunk!Fest speaks largely without words to develop an unshakeable sense of bleakness and despair for the spirit of exploration, rescue and discovery. Apart from the loud and enthusiastic Belgian crowds and the choir’s inclusion on ‘A Gallant Gentleman’, the show’s only exception to being vocal-free is found within the two-part closing ‘Challenger’ series about the 1986 space shuttle tragedy. In ‘Challenger’s ‘Flight’ and ‘A Swan Song’, a sobering and sentimental sampled narration from families, loved ones, and such other speakers forcefully instils a sense of loss and sorrow in our minds. The range of selected speakers extend to ultimately include the voice of President Ronald Reagan, who finally ends the entire performance with an eerie but beautiful speech. “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey, waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”

A Gallant Gentleman
The Last Dive of David Shaw
Challenger Part 1 – Flight
Challenger Part 2 – A Swan Song