Slowdive’s comeback after about 22 years is a proof in itself that quality shoegaze is here to stay for a long time. Being one of the unparalleled pioneers of the classic shoegaze genre and major contributors to explore the new horizons that transcend dream-pop, noise rock and various other forms of alternative rock, I was sure that the album’s going to be engineered fairly well. The opener “Slomo” has a refreshing, guitar-laden melody romancing with a lush ambient pop vibe. Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell’s vocals heard as soft, gleeful echoes are immersed within the dreamy texture of the song as perky synthesizers add to their resonance. For me, it’s probably a perfect song you should be listening to while having an aromatic cup of coffee on days when the sun is not too abrasive and the spring breeze feels impregnated with the scent of flower kernels in bloom. Yes, precisely. Slowdive’s new record is all about those imaginative metaphors. “Star Roving” is the most shoegazy song on the album and there’s a lot of reverberance, drone guitars and hypnotic noise coalesced together to give birth to an a-okay shoegaze number. It starts off like an explosive supernova, splattering the warm luster all around and dies out with Halstead’s heartsick hums. The next song “Don’t Know Why” plays around with upbeat synths, a baroque song structure and particularly vibrant chants which makes it pretty addictive. “Sugar for the Pill” is downright sensational and melodic. The song’s more on the brit-pop side but the sentimental lyrics with a meaningful delivery by Halstead is worthy enough to set the right kind of a melancholic mood to contemplate things that might have possibly gone wrong in your life. Verses like “Lying in a bed of greed, you know I had the strangest dream..” and “This jealousy will break the whole” encapsulate myriads of bittersweet sadness. “Everyone Knows” has a dense noise-pop sound ricocheting with Goswell’s wistful swoons ringing in your ears. “No Longer Making Time” has a rather ordinary sequence of drums, synths and guitars but it’s appealing and settles the fact that simple things work out well if done right.
Next up is my personal favorite “Go Get It” and it affirms a soaring flight of fancy. The main chorus “I wanna see it, I wanna feel it..” confirms unapologetic wishful thinking and is a sonic treat for all the hopeless romantics out there. The closer “Falling Ashes” is just a space-filler, to be honest and most likely I would skip it.
There’s a chance that you will end up playing the album everyday as long as the songs resonate in your head which profess a great replay value. The record swerves more to the dream-pop side than shoegaze. The preceding albums Just For A Day, Pygmalion and Souvlaki were plain ecstatic with their pensive songwriting and volatile guitar sound and in a way, it wouldn’t be totally irrational to state that this self-titled album was conceived as a lovechild to its predecessors. There is fragmentary lightheartedness, celebratory bliss, melodrama and sanguine emotions. It renews your thought process with ethereal dreamscapes and intimate perspectives. It is a good comeback album for a band that’s been on a hiatus for 22 years. Give them some love!
Album Rating: 4/5.
Saule’s self-titled debut album has a concrete sound that majorly revolves around post-rock and post-metal but has black metal and the death-doom sisterhood as its muse. The album can easily find its natural habitat on the extreme end of the musical spectrum. The introductory track “I” sets up a solid foreground for the listener to decipher what the record intends on offering. You can dismantle the post-metal enamel only to discover the immutable post-rock ingenuity in there. The vigorous drumming and down-tuned guitars promise a strong baseline knowledge of the genres at hand. The backing vocals augment into distinctly audible monstrous growls as the song unfolds. The second track “II” is a continuation of the same ambient theatrics and mysterious post-metal vibe having an interlude with minimalist experimentation and evolving crescendos. “III” is the most wholesome song on the record. It has a sublime overture, relentless growls, lamentable blues, atrocious drum solos all of which boils down to create the characteristic post-metal haze. The deceptive, slow descent into the vortex of post-rock is actually a prelude to the song’s climax that reeks of sheer profoundness and is jam-packed with magnanimously heavy guitars which somehow manifests into the classic death-doom metal combo.
“IV” and and the first two minutes of “V” are more or less like an antidote to the preliminary surge of unsolicited desolation and nebulous smog. The rest half is all about explicitly loud ascension into the esoteric. You can pinpoint borrowed influences from bands like Neurosis, Cult of Luna and Isis who’ve mastered the various avenues of post-metal with numerous releases. You know what they say. Nobody is inventing gun-powder or the wheel again.
Lasting eight minutes, “VI” feels like stretching it out a bit too long with the same morose disposition. It’s breaking point. The album terminates with the track “O” which makes the torrents of agony whittle down to a droning whir. With that being said, this makes up for a very expressive record which paints surreal strokes of despair on the canvas of life. Its manipulation of so many musical dimensions i.e. post-rock, post-metal, black metal and death/doom promises strong musicianship. The fusion of ambient elements and post-metal delivers the punch it ought to. The deviant nature of metal is dealt intelligibly with. They’ve accomplished a lot with their debut release.
Album Rating: 3/5.
The colossal sound of the good ol’ black metal came out pretty much refined and radically avant-garde on this record. Before I put forth my song by song review, I would like to focus on the album art which caught my attention in the first place. It conveys the sullen essence of the record with its vivid imagery. The deep-rooted pathology is aesthetically transparent. It features two people (band members probably?) dressed up as the symbolic markhor which the traditional heavy metal subculture is all too familiar with. In all honesty, I did not know about this band earlier despite being an avid listener of the relevant genre. Well, better late than never. Getting back to the critique, the introductory track “Deviant Shapes” starts of bluesy with muffled drum pounding which felt very emotionally stimulating. It picks up momentum to deliver the basic depressive black metal sound and concludes with a precise solo which is strictly bleak and gloomy. The big surprise in there is the saxophone which seems just about fitting played by Alexey Iskimzhi with proper virtuosity. It’s plausible how the song structure is intricate but definitely not overdone. The second track “Stillborn Knowledge” has the grim element intact complemented by the black-gaze precision. It doesn’t turn out to be monotonous as the arrangement is done with generous sax-synth improvisations. The song’s eventual escalation into a magnificent solo with frenzied drumming and a jazzy outro is terrific. “Homecoming” is also crafted with the same arcane black-jazz technique they’ve succeeded in establishing by now. I personally loved the sensual guitars in the intro with a piercing sense of electricity and eeriness. “Rain As Cure” is like a little ray of hope and bliss amidst the dark, sepulchral shadows. It’s full-fledged 3 minutes of abstract cleansing with a soulful jazz & blues instrumental. However, darkness prevails and builds up into a 6 minute long “Black Silent Piers” reminiscent of atmospheric black metal goodness synonymous with Wolves In The Throne Room, Lantlôs, Ulver, Drudkh and Gallowbraid.
The last song to the album is “Futility Report” which sounds essentially atmospheric with borderline progressive fringing towards the end. The sonic experimentation might feel a bit redundant but stirs your musical sense in general. The transitions lack rich diversity and become predictable at some point. The gritty guitars inter-laced with jazzy undertones and subtle synths essentially add to the modern side of the conventional blackened metal. The post-black metal vibe is consistent alongside unorthodox musical interventions. The lyrics are performed in coarse, raspy vocals for the most part with the exception of the opening dramatic monologue accustomed to the melancholic aura the album effortlessly intends on generating. The record in its entirety suggests cynical sermons delivered with purging shrieks. Menace and misery looms throughout with a hint of noir. I can easily declare this as one of my favorite releases this year irrespective of the genre.
Album Rating: 4/5.