This third album from the New Yorkers is strikingly different and still firmly in the same enthralling vein of its predecessors. Whereas “Winter Hours” and the “Path of Totality” were oppressive, yet epically melodic walls of noise, the production on this new release has been stripped bare and refocused, which is perhaps partly due to having new members on boards, and undoubtedly aided by Eric Rutan’s renowned crisp production.
Having seen them live a couple of times at Roadburn and Temples festivals, there is definitely the impression gained that they are a finely tuned unit and deliberate in their intentions in delivering a cathartic and uplifting set of punishment/reward songs. There is this sense of clarity and space in the structure now with this new material and yet they still unleash relentless onslaughts of harshly aggressive, riffs that stretch out to the horizons.
The same fine, interesting, line is trodden between black metal maelstrom and the punchier, hardcore orientated breakdowns and buildups, something that seems to bleed into a lot of the bands from the metropolis. Easy to put a “post-“tag to their metal just to credit their invention and thinking outside the box even though it is a celebration of metal at its dark core.
The light and the shade is not an even balance, but they do break it up enough and with enough variety to maintain the interest. Adding to this immediacy is a really battering drum mix that punctuates, even overrides, a lot of the sections, demanding attention. Previously the vocals have been somewhat lost or blended into the layers of rolling noise but they are much more audible now, giving hooks and additional depth to their concepts.
There is the broad, abstract spiritual context that they tap into, like fellow progressive scene monsters Neurosis and Wolves in the Throne Room, and sometimes I am struck that they have drawn near to A Storm of Light in elements of their sound now. Not a bad thing at all, but undoubtedly they have something relatively unique and special going on in their own right. All in all a hugely involving and captivating experience of an album, once you start on this ride, you’ll hurtle towards the end with abandon.