Friday, 18 May 2018

Amarok - Devoured


Labels: Translation Loss Records
Formats: Vinyl/CD/Digital
Release Date: 22 Jun 2018

Tracklist:

1. VI - Sorceress
2. VII - Rat Tower
3. VIII - Skeleton
4. IX - Devoured

It's been just over five years since the last new music from Californian sludge/doom band Amarok. That last release came in the form of a split tape/LP with Oregon's Hell. They're now safely in the  Translation Loss Records fold, a label with an enviable track record when it comes to slow and heavy music. "Devoured" is the band's first full-length and features four songs, that continue their use of Roman Numerals, spread over nearly seventy-minutes. That artwork has captivated me ever since I laid eyes on it!

I’ve not been listening to nearly enough heavy music over the last week, even though I’ve felt the pull of so much, which is why it’s a relief to be sitting here now. I’ve been wanting to write about this album ever since I caught a glimpse of it’s stunning cover art and album opener VI - Sorceress doesn’t disappoint. The acoustic guitar introduction, which draws in layers of noise and feedback, breeds a sense of great anticipation as the band increases in volume. The instrumentation remains restrained as the pained screams take their place on top. Amarok’s sludge and doom has been evolving since the turn of the decade and they seem to be at peak heaviness here, albeit with plenty of atmospheric progression too. The changing of dynamic near the mid-way point in the song, with more metallic (but still slow) riffs and deeper growls taking over, the quartet breeds a gloomier outlook that’s catching.

From that harrowing opener you’re greeted with melancholy and a strange but reassuring calmness as VII - Rat Tower begins. Be warned though, that calmness only lasts so long! While the heaviness of the band breaks through again, Amarok certainly knows how to interweave moments of abject beauty into their music. There are moments of drone and feedback-ridden noise that transports you to a different place at times. This is so much more than just straightforward sludge/doom. From the darkest moments the brightest lights shine.

There’s no big build up on VIII - Skeleton, as Amarok flails headlong into a shorter but no less intense piece. You’ll notice that throughout “Devoured” there’s a lot of continuation within the melodies created by the guitars. It’s continuation that works well, as if the songs on here were once one long song, before being split into separate movements. The bass tones throughout leave a rumbling imprint on both your brain and your body, making it the doomiest, most bone-shattering song on the album. There’s plenty of groove present in the it too though, especially towards it’s conclusion.

“Devoured” ends with IX - Devoured and it’s glorious guitar, which at times sounds like a siren. It’s a crafted expanse of melody, layered together to relax you before one final stark and despondent stretch of sludge. I guess that stark and despondent aren’t terribly good descriptors, as they paint an image of something that’s hard to listen to and depressive, which this album is not. It’s incredibly immersive from start to finish, which an album should be. It’s meant to be listened to in one sitting and not in short bursts. This album is another example of what is great about sludge/doom in 2018. 

You can stream VIII - Skeleton and pre-order "Devoured" on all available formats below:-



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