PICK OF THE WEEK: Siberian doom explorers Below the Sun set dial for the cosmos on ‘Envoy’

Below the SunVast desolation is a concept that totally frightens me. Thinking about the cosmos and the far-reaching expanse it holds is enough to intimidate anyone. How much is out there, what worlds remain unexplored by humans, what kinds of technology exists on other planets that we can’t even comprehend? It’s mind blowing, astonishing, and quite humbling.

But a journey to those far-off places likely won’t be relegated to science-fiction in the future. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but maybe in one of our reincarnations we might be the people to stretch beyond the Earth and reach out to beings not yet encountered. It’s a subject broached by mighty Siberian quintet Below the Sun on their incredible new record “Envoy.” It imagines a future trip on Voyager I out of our solar system and into the sea of stars and other worlds, where no one from this planet has a hope to even explore in this lifetime. But why hold that back from preventing our dreams, where we can wonder just what humankind is capable of accomplishing and just where we might measure up on the universal food chain. We might end up not liking what we find out. Then again, this world could use a dose of reality every now and again.

Below the Sun coverThis band is a secretive union, whose identities take a backseat to their artistic endeavors. Having first performed together in the middle of a Russian forest to create a one-off funeral doom piece, the band has morphed from there from a kernel of an idea to a full-blown band. Their music easily engulfs you, ranging from doom to funeral bleakness to sludge to post-metal, and the journey you take with them over these six songs could take your breath away. The tracks often feel ceremonial, like you’re watching an idea or a concept experience birth, maturation through life, and an ultimate end, where the mileposts can be counted upon final reflection. The music is moving and monstrous, and like the universe itself, it’s sometimes so daunting that all you can do is let it wash over you.

The record is front-loaded with beefy, longer tracks, the first being 11:09 “Outward the Sky,” which enters into serenity before it blows apart with black chaos and gut-wrenching growls. It plays with tempo quite a bit, pummeling you one moment, easing you into clouds and breeze the next, and in the middle of all of this, a strange, ghostly transmission comes in that really makes you feel like you’re leaving the Earth. Sorrowful guitars arrive, the vocals go for the throat, and everything ends chugging in mud. “Cries of Dying Stars” could make your hairs stand up with its chilling, trickling introduction, and then it soars into a soulful section of melody, with the band continually adding layers of drama. The back end feels like a journey deep into the stars, working past the Milky Way and into beyond. “Alone” runs 10:26, quietly setting a mood and letting whispers establish the tone. The song then gets sludgy and ugly, with guitars stinging, the atmosphere boiling heavily, and growls spilling over, with cries of, “Alone!” toppling everything and injecting a true sense of isolation.

Monster “Drift in Deep Space” goes 15:27 and is the centerpiece of the record. Heavy drone rises at the dawn, with guitars sparking, lurching, and spilling over the land. This track harkens back heavily to the band’s funeral doom past, as it levels you slowly but heavily, setting a mournful, anguish-filled sentiment. The growls stretch longer than they do elsewhere, as the cosmic pot gets hotter and angrier, the guitar work sprawls out over the night sky, and the tempo starts pounding relentlessly like an engine that’s just heating up. The final two tracks are instrumental cuts, with the first, “Breath of Univerce” feeling like it’s set up to bring you down emotionally from what you just heard. The song hangs in the air, the approach feels alien, and your head is likely going to be floating as closer “The Earth” arrives. There, guitars burst with life, the melodies surge and shake you to your core, and some real grit makes its presence known, dashing any sense of beauty with a streak of blood. Things start bashing with severity, making it seem like you’re in for a crash landing, but then things even out, chirps and buzzes enter your headspace, and everything washes away. Wow. What an intense, amazing trip that was.

Below the Sun have the might and majesty to go a long way, and “Envoy” should signal the first major step in their sojourn. Like the ideas put forth on the record, the band sounds ready to break past their earthly surroundings to see how far and wide they can expand their reach. Their potential is limitless, and they should have major appeal to anyone who wants to strap into the spaceship cockpit and soar past worlds you only dreamed existed before. You’re sure to have a unique experience and feel every ounce of this band’s pure strength.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/BelowTheSunBand

To buy the album, go here: http://templeoftorturous.com/shop/

For more on the label, go here: http://templeoftorturous.com/

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