Written by: Continuous Thunder
I first got into heavy music in my mid-teens, and by “got into heavy music” I mean found music that not only appealed to me, but also bothered my parents. (What’s the point of heavy music if it doesn’t cause your parents genuine concern?) Anyway, way back in the mid-’00s, when I was just a distant rumble, the heavy music of choice for the youths of the day was screamo and metalcore. CD players and primitive iPods were full of the sounds of bands like Underoath, The Used, From First To Last, and The Devil Wears Prada. Jeans were tight, lips were pierced, and hair was long and dyed black. These genres and styles fell out of favor right around the end of the decade, but screamo has had a bit of an underground resurgence in recent years. Infant Island, in particular, are a relatively new band that may prove that the genre isn’t entirely dead.
Written by: Volt Thrower
Old sticky beer gripping the bottom of my shoes. Sweaty dudes bumping into me. The crushing weight of Tatsu Mikami’s bass tone laying waste to my chest cavity. Was it all a dream? The last show I went to in the pre-pandemic times was Church of Misery in February, less than three months ago, but it feels like it's been at least three years. The concept of time of has become a black hole since ~March 13th. Anything prior to that date genuinely feels like it's beyond the grasp of memory or record, i.e. Time Immemorial.
We’re in unprecedented times, people feel hopeless. Canadian sludgers Heron build atmosphere on the back of hopelessness, and deliver perhaps the most relevant release of 2020.
Post-metal is an intrinsically fickle beast. While a more forgiving genre such as sludge or death can exist--and flourish--simply on the merits of its particularly bombastic nature, post-metal consistently toes a line between repression and expulsion. While this particularly sleepy-eyed Village isn’t that well versed in the post-metal ‘verse, I do know this: a band must walk that line with grace, displaying both self-reflective ambiance and explosive catharsis, the inevitable result of an emotional and sonic bottleneck. How, then, does the band in question handle to pressure? Dawn Fades are a mighty quintet based out of LA, and prior to their debut, the reputable immersive nature of their live performances served as a calling card. While this may be their first release, these fellas are markedly professional and mature in their craft. I’m happy to report that when Dawn Fades commits to emotive bombast, they blow the walls out.
While these moments of catharsis are few, they define the album’s ability to maintain interest and immersion. Buildup is everything, and Dawn Fades’ true strength is their ability to maintain interest through the more ambient, acoustic, and otherwise gentle passages, while simultaneously knowing how and when to strike without isolating or boring their audience. If that isn’t a success story, what is? Gentle and often near-elusive guitar sets the stage, and well-considered use of cleans and harshly blackened rasps provide a barometer for intensity. None of this feels contrived or--gasp--overly academic.
Take the periodic brief pauses in instrumentation on Ashes, a track that slowly grew to become a favorite. While another band might have used this as a chance to showcase an animistic screech, or another suitably violent vocal exorcism, Dawn Fades elects for a subtle silence. In interrupting the pattern, it helps the song as a whole catch an (occasional) jagged breath. As a result, attention is focused. Quite smart. Moments like this, which frequent the album, seem particularly well constructed for a live environment, where the audience can be pulled and manipulated through a tangible atmosphere.
From a critical perspective, the drums, which significantly define the motion of the album throughout, could use more heft--while light on their feet, they generally lack punch. That said, the crunchier tracks--such as lead single Freeze--feel particularly massive in comparison. More concretely, the utilization of lyric-less cleans in Shackle seem slightly out of place given the prior sophistication of atmospherics. Considering the overall achievement here, minor complaints. On a personal level, Dawn Fades was very much worth the expedition into unfamiliar genre waters. If you are a fan of post-metal--or perhaps similarly uninitiated--this debut will undoubtedly prove an intriguing and satisfyingly immersive experience.
Dawn Fades will be released February 8th from Metal Assault Records. In the meantime, we here at the Sleeping Village highly recommend you bend your ear in the direction of Lean and Freeze. Solid singles both, and a strong introduction to Dawn Fades’ uniquely precise line in the sand between introspection and violent spectacle.
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!