By Lola Burris
There’s no way to clearly talk about grief powerfully enough to get the feeling across, but post-rock band We Lost The Sea does an incredibly accurate job communicating the feeling of grief through the music on this album. The group lost their lead singer and friend, Chris Torphy, when he passed away in 2013; the band decided to carry on his legacy with this 2015 release. Departure Songs tells the story of 4 events entirely instrumentally. This album is a tribute to human heroism, failures, losses, and glimpses of hope. This review is going to cover some heavy stuff, so I feel the need to warn you now.
The first song on the album, A Gallant Gentleman, pays tribute to Captain Lawrence Oates of the Robert Falcon Scott South Pole Expedition, which attempted to be the first group of humans to reach the south pole. Although, they found out that another team had accomplished this before, leaving them to return to their base in defeat. Captain Lawrence Oates felt he was dragging down him team and decided to leave the tent, and walk out into a surrounding blizzard, knowing full well he wouldn’t be returning. He muttered “I am just going outside and may be some time,” to his teammates before stumbling out into the black night to be buried forever in the white snowdrift. The music matches this perfectly: slowly chiming guitars press down on your chest, each chord pressing down a little harder and making it difficult to breathe under the deep emotional weight they hold. The peak of this song carries the weight of the rest of the song and rolls over you with crashing cymbals and a trio of guitars that lurch you forward until you fall, then left with nothing but a girls choir eerily echoing. This ending of this song leaves you feeling completely alone, placing you delicately in the headspace of Lawrence Oates as he lay in the snow alone reflecting on his failed exploits, and dying to allow his team to live.
Bogatyri is the next song on the album, recounting the sacrifice of the chernobyl three, who sacrificed themselves to open a valve in radioactive water to save the lives of countless people. The song begins with a kind of smoky tone that serves as a warning of the impending doom in this track. Around 2 minutes in the guitars begin to take over and lead you as the crescendo builds up until you’re dropped over the edge as the chernobyl three were dropped into the water. You’re pulled into complete darkness along with the chernobyl three, the song begins to feel constrained, it chokes you as the guitars continue to peak over and over again, cymbals swirling around you for what seems like hours in this 12 minute track, until you’re left with just corroding guitars at the end.
There really are no words to describe how emotionally full the event in this next song is, but We Lost The Sea is here with their music to do just that; this track is extremely heavy so I really urge you that this isn’t going to be a happy reading experience and to take precaution. This 17 minute long track lurches you deeper and deeper with each second. It begins with real audio from the last dive of David Shaw, the sound of water rushing over you and creating a claustrophobic space. As you sink deeper drums match the beating of your heart and guitars wrap around you pulling you down deeper into the depths along with David Shaw who dove down to unimaginable depths to return the body of another diver to his family who wanted to bury their son. As things begin to explode around you you feel entangled, left in a trance until everything ties together in a dark melody as Dave’s life peacefully comes to an end after spending enough time struggling with the ties that held him.
The last 2 songs on the album are about the challenger disaster in 1986. I don’t feel like I have the words to describe these songs, and feel like they are better experienced without knowledge of them beforehand. I could say that about this entire album, but these two especially have left me without words to describe.
Departure Songs is a baring of the soul of humanity; it leaves you with the realisation that you can fail but still be a hero. This band took their grief and turned it into something beautiful, and I am extremely grateful for the m continuing to make music in a time of complete hopelessness, because I don’t think that anyone else could have made this album at any other time and I’m very glad that this album exists.