Written by: Ancient Hand
San Marcos’s This Will Destroy You should need no introduction at this point; the Texas post-rock group has seen plenty of success and experimentation in their now 16-year-old career. The group’s 2008 self-titled album is considered by many to be their magnum opus, and I am included in this group. That record is a beautiful blend of instrumentation that culminates into a moving and beautiful journey across an auditory version of the American Southwest. After 12 more years and plenty of other albums, we finally get the standalone release of Vespertine, the soundtrack to the high-class, two-Michelin star restaurant of the same name. The soundtrack has been available to those that have been in the restaurant for a few years now, but This Will Destroy You has finally released the soundtrack for the rest of us to enjoy.
Written by: Scorpi
Let me set the scene. You’re in one of those fancy Venetian longboats. But you’re not in Venice, the budget in my imagination isn’t that large. But you’re on a river nonetheless. And up ahead there are towns & villages that light up the embankment of the river, this is where you’re heading.
The boat jitters forward and starts floating across the river, smooth as silk.
The start of this journey is accompanied by “Rengeteg,” the first track off of Ajna’s debut album of the same name. This leg of the journey is soothing and relaxing. You can hear birds singing, then some chirpy, catchy guitar melodies start playing in your head, along with a catchy drum beat. The boat travels along at a steady pace as you take in the sights. There’s some pretty, forest-like landscapes on the embankment with the setting sun shimmering through the leaves. More pleasant guitar licks are playing in your head, along with some funkier bass lines now but they aren’t front and centre, rather sitting gently underneath the pleasing guitar sounds. The music gets a little livelier every now and then, much like the excitement building within you to get to the first stop on your journey.
As someone who spends a lot of time listening to over-the-top music, the notion of scarcity is one that I admire--even if that means gazing longingly from across the vast expanse of the promo pit’s turbulent waters. And so, my ears a-buzz from that which came before, I cast about looking for something that doesn’t dwell in complexity. A band that breaks their craft down to the basic elements. To this end, a two-piece instrumental death metal band seemed like it would do the trick--guitar, drums, and nothing else to complicate the matter. And so, without reading any biographical info beyond that, I fired up Fermentor, expecting some straightforward death tunes, sans vocals. In other words, the “lo-fi beats to chill to” of the death metal ecosystem.
...And man, was I ever wrong.
This particular Slumbering Villager's talents don't exactly fall in the “songwriting” category, but this I know: unless you're the immortal Bongripper, creating compelling long-form instrumental doom is damn hard. Fuzz-ridden repetition, while a hallmark, is a blessing and a curse, and few outfits command the dynamism required to pull it off. The lack of vocals effectively guillotines a prime focal point. And we haven't even begun to mention the encroaching boredom that lurks sullenly at every turn. While there are always exceptions, doom of this ilk often goes on and on without ever saying anything interesting. Much like...well, much like this introduction. Really painted myself into a corner there.
Written by: Vattghern
Instrumental records are very risky. Either you master the craft and make it interesting and innovative enough, or the music fades into the uninspiring and generic abyss. Nomera kind of fall between these two categories (already making my statement a paradox). Holos is a short instrumental piece, with instrumentation reminiscent of prog and death metal. As short as the record, I’ll try to make this review.
Nomera are trying hard to make their music not sound boring and repetitive, and the effort pays off in some moments. The synth is the strongest aspect of their sound,embracing sweet melodies that act as a nice contrast to the riff--and double bass--dominated sound. Unfortunately, between all the riffs and guitar leads, Nomera fail to provide big standout moments. There are some, don't get me wrong, but too many times parts are forgotten as soon as the next changeup comes into play. As a whole Holos lacks variety, while ironically having countless riffs and leads. After the 4th tapping lead, you kind of get the idea.
The production overall is solid, but I found the kick to be a little sharp in the whole mix.
If Nomera tries to tighten their songwriting,focus more on riffs that really matter, and polish their sound a bit, they could improve by a lot. As this is a debut I'm able to look over these weak spots, hoping for a better future for these guys, because there is potential. As is, Holos sadly fails to impress me in any one category.
No matter how us prejudicial critics slice it, it seems that LA’s own Goliathan are playing a dangerous game. Modern doom, plus post-rock, sans vocals. Given each genre’s proclivity for repetition--even with the benefit of vocals to break up the monotony--this Sleeping Villager’s first assumption was not, in fact, that Goliathan writes a particularly dynamic brand of metal. But man, was I ever wrong. Their 2017 EP, entitled Awakens, shot first & never bothered to ask questions, utterly smoking expectations in the process. Albion, released yesterday from Metal Assault Records, only reaffirms Golithan’s profound ability to create nuanced & cutting-edge music. I’m just going to state the obvious: Albion is an absolute Goliath of a sophomore effort.
The titular track is equal parts harrowing & hooky, with a sludgy, crunching tone that blossoms, in the second half, into an ambient passage before closing back in. A toothy bite, if ever there was, with substantial care & thought apparent in the composition. While the driving theme recalls Scheidt at his zenith of aggression, Albion’s willingness to explore & develop an idea beyond the obvious hard-rockin’ extremities is strongly reminiscent of Boghaunter. While mere snippets indicate a lack of sonic cohesion, this track--indicative of the EP in general--flows with such a natural current that transitions simply...happen, without making an announcement first. Golithan are clearly accomplished instrumentalists, but the main takeaway here is that their songwriting chops are top-tier.
As good as the intro track is at setting the stage, Vaalbara is the true crown jewel. Starting off with an intense low end, with hollow drums & no-nonsense bass, Vaalbara employs a motif that feels nearly Smashing Pumpkins-esque in its hooky delivery. There’s something timeless about the central riff--& indeed, something timeless about the guitar across the entire effort. Simple yet layered, driving yet hypnotic. Goliathan writes rockin’ riffs, plain & simple, & their dual guitar-driven melodic overtones are so effortless that the lack of vocals never--& I mean actually never--feels like a hindrance. Album closer Aberration is a bit of an odd duck, but adds a necessarily derivation from the established formula. This piece is a proggy, multifaceted piece of paranoia is an upwards, sweat-inducing climb that simultaneously recalls the jarring angularity of the title track, but still manages to leaves one far from where the album began. If that isn’t a measure of a work’s ability to represent a journey while remaining tied to thematic roots, I don’t know what is. Goliathan know what they are doing, & they do it inordinately well. In this arena (and, frankly, in all arenas) Albion is markedly consistent, and a genuinely beautiful sonic experience.
At the end of the day, vocals, or lack thereof, don’t define the band. This is a trap I have fallen into far too often, but Goliathan has shown me--twice now--the error of these unfortunate ways. It is not genre tags that determine the quality of a musical project, but rather the dedication and passion of the respective musicians. For a band that continues to surprise, this only foretells equally great things to come. From a critical perspective, the only downside is the brevity, but the smartest artists always leave a ravished audience hungry for more. Albion comes highly, highly recommended.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!