Light on length but heavy everywhere else
It’s been an especially good time to be a doom fan lately with some utterly spectacular albums having been released over the past 12 months including those from the likes of Esoteric, Ahab, 40 Watt Sun, Anhedonist, Inverloch, YOB, Pallbearer, and a whole bunch more. Well doom fans, prepare to open your wallets once again because Reverence to Stone, the sophomore release from Seattle’s Samothrace, is pretty much mandatory listening.
It’s been four years since Samothrace released their debut album, Life’s Trade, but the passage of time is barely evident on Reverence to Stone whose material serves as a fitting continuance of that proffered on its predecessor; a sound that takes the slow pacing of funeral doom and weaves together layers of psychedelic fuzz, sludge, and expansive post-rock atmospheric soundscapes to create an entity that borrows from the band’s contemporaries and influences yet stands apart with an identity and personality very much of its own at the same time.
The thing that I find most intriguing about Samothrace is that everything they do utterly screams gloom and misery yet their material has quite the opposite effect on me. While there is a crushing rhythm section and some suitably morose and tortured vocals sitting at the heart of their sound, highly melodic and rather bluesy riffs and lead breaks frequently flit in and out, serving as a strangely appropriate and fitting counterbalance to the weighty bottom end of the band’s sound that saves it from collapsing in upon itself and actually lends the material an almost uplifting quality at the same time. Mere sorrow merchants these guys are not and there are few, if any, acts that spring to mind who channel this kind of emotional duality quite as effectively.
Reverence to Stone does differ from its forebear somewhat in that the band are quite happy to explore longer sections of atmospheric nothingness (for want of a better adjective) where chords or feedback will ring out without a riff anywhere to be seen, sometimes for several minutes at a time and, while I accept that what I’ve just described may well sound utterly abhorrent, the truth is that it actually works extremely well within the context of a post-rock mindset. Everything the band does on this album is in the pursuit of atmospheric quality and the ebbing and flowing of light to shade, loud to quiet has been exploited masterfully, sounding completely natural and in its right place.
Comprising of only two songs and with a running time of just shy of 35 minutes, Reverence to Stone is inarguably guilty of offering up only the slightest fix of the band’s captivating approach to their craft but perhaps therein lays the genius. This is an album that had a lot to prove after the success that was Life’s Trade and, rather than take the same approach, they decided to whet the appetites of their fans while simultaneously offering something with just enough meat on its bones to keep you coming back over and again. Of course, there’s always the possibility that I’m way off base here and the band really did just want to release a two song album but ultimately the end result is exactly the same – an album that, while light on tracks, is bursting with playability and has the heft and staying power of one with twice or three times the number of songs. I’d be lying though if I said that I was totally satisfied with the arguably paltry dose of doom on offer here and I find myself with an insatiable hunger for more of the good stuff. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another four years for it to arrive.
(20 Buck Spin)