I’m pretty terrible at being on time. That’s half my fault, half the universe’s. I do have a tendency to either get up as late as I possibly can without being tardy or leave at a time that ensures whenever I arrive at my destination, I won’t have to wait around. That often allows life to get in the way and impede my journey, thus causing me to either be late or to arrive frighteningly near the wire. I need to get better at that.
Because of this, I have leniency for people who sometimes cause me to wait longer than I want to. Maybe something came up. Perhaps unforeseen circumstances popped up as they always do and kept the person away. Maybe the person slept in. It happens, and I try to understand. I am probably the best person in the world because of this. I just realized that. That also carries over to music and bands I like that take a super long time to get back to me with new music. No, really, take your time. I’ll be here, but if better be fucking good.
Four years ago after receiving a promo of their debut album from the always trusty 20 Buck Spin, I came to discover and become enamored with Samothrace, a sludgy, bruising metal machine out of the Pacific Northwest that absolutely pummeled me with “Life’s Trade.” From that point, they became one of my favorite new metal bands, one I was dying to see live so I could witness the power and brutality live. Sadly, I have not had the pleasure yet. As time wore on and I kept making regular stops to visit the four-track album, I started wondering what was next and when the day would arrive that I’d have new Samothrace material at my disposal. And I waited. And waited. Seriously, holy shit, are you stuck in a tunnel somewhere? Where are you?! But I asked those questions internally because I like the band and cared enough to get impatient waiting. I guess I’m not such a good person after all.
A few weeks ago, my wait ended when the band’s latest opus “Reverence to Stone” arrived in my inbox. Many times when promos arrive, I let them sit until I’m ready for them. This one I downloaded right away because I needed to hear what they conjured as immediately as I could. I decided I’d listen on my daily 2-mile hate walk so that the music could be properly absorbed and deciphered on a first listen, and when I got back home from my journey, I wasn’t sure what to make of what I heard. Let me explain.
The music was, indeed, wholly satisfying, and I already had singled out sections of the album that stood out for me the most. Also, the quartet sounded in top form, almost like they, too, couldn’t wait to hear what they had in them and needed to get it out as quickly and effectively as possible. On that end, my expectations were totally met and even surpassed a bit. What threw me a little was the brevity of the thing: just two tracks that are over in a little under 35 minutes. And trust me, this thing is over before you know it, which sounds weird to say when you’re tackling one song at 14:19, another at 20:29. I guess I felt a little greedy where I wanted another track or two. Something else to really round out this record. But that also got me to thinking that I was trying to look at this thing based on what’s NOT here instead of what is. And what is contained in these two tracks is some of this band’s best, most cathartic work to date, even more proof they are one of the most criminally under-hyped bands in metal today. I hope I can help change that.
The band remains gargantuanly heavy, as guitarists Brian Spinks and Renata Castagna, bassist Dylan Desmond, and drummer Joe Axler achieve a symmetry and cosmic alignment in their playing. Their songs tell stories, even if Spinks monstrous howl only dips in and out of these songs, limiting the lyrical output to saying just enough. Instead, the plots are moved by the band’s playing, and their spacious, crushing, and emotional style always packs an enormous gut punch. There’s not a solitary moment on “Reverence to Stone” where the band does not deliver, and each subsequent listen has peeled away new layers and made each experience unique.
The first cut “When We Emerged” trickles in serenely, with a nice melodic guitar line setting the stage and preparing you for the tumult you know is ahead. Eventually the crunch drops, the band finds a devastating, sludgy pace, punchier shifts emerge, Spinks wails from the bottom of his heart, and drone and feedback slowly flood the floor, with the tide rising as the song reaches its finale. “A Horse of Our Own” begins with a dark, doomy complexion, and the cut keeps swelling with power before letting its guard down for some atmospherics. This song has an album’s worth of peaks and valleys (dissolving my not-enough-material initial impression), scintillating guitar work and lead play, more emotive growls from Spinks, and some serious drubbing that should shake your brain against your skull walls. The song also has a fairly tumultuous conclusion, with a lurching pace, tortuous noise, and screeching that strike like the planet is being torn apart.
In retrospect, my initial disappointment that “Reverence to Stone” was eclipsed by the quality of the music on here. Who cares how long it is, as long as what’s on here is powerful and moving, which this effort is. This album should put Samothrace’s name on the tongue of every extreme metal fan, underground cultist, and doom disciple. And hopefully for greedy people like me, Samothrace won’t make us wait as long for a follow-up.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Samothrace/67987779185
To buy the album (should be on sale soon), go here: http://www.20buckspin.com/store/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.20buckspin.com/site/