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.
In any case, let it be known that Chicago's Plague of Carcosa sidestep this pitfall handily with their latest two-track EP, the aptly entitled Ocean Is More Ancient Than The Mountains. Beyond their choice of genre, a bolder move still is evoking the most essential behemothian and leviathanian forces, respectively, of the natural world. And, like unto the title, Plague of Carcosa present a soundscape that renders the ocean in a light as powerful and inconceivable as their Lovecraftian influences.
To tackle such an existentially and emotionally vast mythology, you need a comparable sound. You know that feeling when you're swimming in the ocean and the depths start to beckon? The call of the abyss. It's a difficult feeling to describe--seductive yet terrifying, all contained in a moment of yearning. Across the breadth of its runtime, that feeling is the closest I can come to describing how Ocean Is More Ancient Than The Mountains sounds. Damp riffs swell and churn, and drums crash against storm-bashed breakers. Even the most droning moments evoke the watery grave in prime fashion. Sonically, the sheer size and weight is pretty much beyond compare. The riffs, as one would expect, are drowning in fuzz and feedback. The tone, for all its weight, feels very much alive; it churns and pummels with riptide aggression. And the drums. The Village’s taskmaster informs me that I've hit my quota for colorful adjectives in this paragraph, so...the drums are big. Really big. The cymbal work is particularly impressive--from somber to combative, they constitute one of the more emotive elements in the instrumentation. The atmosphere is set remarkably well, and, despite a strong familiarity with this EP at this stage in the game, I'm consistently taken aback by how effective these guys are at nailing that unmistakably overwhelming oceanic feeling.
The first track is an ode to Lovecraft’s Nyarlathotep, known in said mythos as “The Crawling Chaos.” Cue track title. “This masterpiece is largely about the build--layer after layer of tidal riffage leads to a climax that drips with personality. Promo material alludes to a certain grinding quality, but in my mind it is more like a voracious whirlpool--here, with the determination of Charybdis and her indiscriminate appetite, Plague of Carcosa take the buildup and crush it to oblivion. Talk about catharsis. “Madness at Sea,” the EP’s second half, is marginally mellower in its approach, but no less colossal. The interplay here is quite impressive, as the guitar takes a backseat and allows the percussion to lead the way. Feedback becomes more and more integral to the track, ultimately concluding with an insanity-inducing sighting of Lovecraft’s finest--the Dread Cthulhu. No doubt: its an appropriately noisy and chaotic end to a well-structured journey across troubled waters.
So, then: instrumental doom. Is it a stretch to call Plague of Carcosa masters of the form? Hardly. This EP accomplishes everything it sets out to do, and it affirms this two-piece as a pair of true craftsmen. Ocean Is More Ancient Than The Mountains is undoubtedly one of the best EPs I've heard all year. For that, and for the sheer musicianship on display, it comes highly recommended.
Plague of Carcosa - Ocean Is More Ancient Than The Mountains will be released July 19th from Sludgelord Records.
Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.