Written by: The Administrator
In lieu of the typical rambling introduction, I'll spare you all and jump straight to my conclusions regarding Nostophobia, the debut full length from Portland's Sea Sleeper. In sum, then: this is a wonderfully chaotic album filled to the brim with the kind of untethered energy that practically demands listener engagement. However, it is also a confusingly chaotic album that would benefit significantly from some spit and polish.
Sea Sleeper bill themselves as a bit of a genre-jumping anomaly, frequently folding in elements of post-metal, deathcore, sludge, avant-garde, metallic hardcore, and even a lil' angsty grunge into their bubbling cauldron o' progressive death. Needless to say, this is a complex conglomerate of sights 'n' sounds, and makes for an experience that is borderline confounding across the breadth. As a fan of boundary-pushing and rule-breaking in music as a general rule, that quality is a clarion call of sorts--provided the intrinsic weirdness sticks the landing.
As a purely randomized example, as any would realistically do: take the (decidedly epic) "Far More than Sustenance Now" as a prime example of Sea Sleeper's ability to yank their audience around at the mere drop of a hat. The front half is a physically jarring trip through angular old-skool Gojiraian riffage and vocals that swing wildly between Layne-esque moans, 'core-laden chants, and cleans that wouldn't be out of place in some gothic-inflected trve doom album of yesteryear. The midsection mellows out significantly, relying on dreamy ambiance before free-falling back into the pits of deliberate insanity. This sheer surplus of variety, as ye might expect, makes for an incredibly intriguing listen. One truly does not know what to expect next, and that intrinsically compelling nature is a true strength in the metalverse, regardless of genre.
That said, "compelling" and "intriguing" do not solid compositions (necessarily) make. As a whole, Nostophobia presents many individual tracks that feel more like a series of moments without a sense of completion or closure. There's a distinct lack of identifiable motifs, be it in the form of recognizable riffs, hooky choruses, or even a common vibe. As such, there is a distinct lack of progression over the course of this album. This absence of cohesion, while presumably deliberate, ultimately creates a certain sense of aimlessness. Thematically, that may indeed be the point--the album title and its reverse-Odyssian implications actually pose a pretty intriguing narrative lens--but said point never quite hit home for me.
As a whole picture, though, I have sincerely enjoyed getting to know the various nooks and crannies that Sea Sleeper have created, and have thus spent a significant amount of time simply sinking into Nostophobia's many odd moments, rather than thinking about how to discuss them. That, in and of itself, is a pleasant rarity. For my money, the standout tracks herein are opener "Salt," the slammin' "George Van Tassel," and the Mastodonian "Low." These are seemingly the most carefully constructed, the most cohesive across their respective run-times. But realistically, no track here is unenjoyable. Every song has some twist or turn worth sinking your teeth into: a sudden thrumming djent-y riff, a dynamic shift between vocal styles, an odd turn of sonic phrase, a furious and unexpected hailstorm of blastbeats.
If you're someone who revels in these moments of immediate oddity, Sea Sleeper is undoubtedly the band for you. If you crave albums that seek to construct a story more significant than the sum of its component parts, Nostophobia may not be it--but I certainly wouldn't count these guys out in the future. I applaud their originality and their obvious drive to create something new, and believe that with a little refinement they'll have the chops to drop a truly great album.
Sea Sleeper - Nostophobia was released Feb. 5th from Metal Assault Records
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