Pylar – Abysmos (Humo Internacional)
Imagine a month in which Messa’s Close doesn’t take the top spot in the category of the weirdest and eeriest music released. Yet this March, that title is reserved for the Spanish collective Pylar, whose music lives in uncertainty, between functional and performative manifestations. Similar to the Russian-based group Phurpa, Abysmos feels like an earnestly devotional and liturgical piece as it vibrates through swells of noise, skin-raising rustles, light percussive sounds, growls, and howls, desolate trumpets, and spikes of metallic riffs.
Even in the huge and enveloping parts of “La Caída (Descenso definitivo a través de las profundidades mayores)”, when all hell is let loose through a combination of sludge, black, and death metal, the underlying sea of noises and effects seems purposeful with psychedelic and insidious motifs meant to induce an elevated state of mind. Similar to the works of Neptunian Maximalism, this is music that trades any sort of forward drive for a sense of textural breathing and shimmering that let the more explicit and direct elements of their sound grow and shrink, culminating in the feverish, transcendental incantations of “Crepitación Solar” and the discordant coming down of “Pasado Profundo. – Antonio Poscic
Sum of R – Lahbryce (Consouling Sounds)
Leave it to the always dependable Belgian label Consouling Sounds and Swiss (but really international) band Sum of R to release a doom and post-metal adjacent album in 2022 that sounds and feels completely unique and fresh. But while loosely based in the crescendos and tension-building machinations of post-metal and the dense, intrinsic heaviness of doom, Lahbryce seems to draw in those characteristics almost as a side effect, while its true path is much more interesting. Helped by Dark Buddha Rising/Waste of Space Orchestra luminaries Jukka Rämänen (on drums and percussion) and Marko Neuman (on vocals and synthesizers), Sum of R’s mastermind Reto Mäder builds a sophisticated network of sounds and styles, all of them joined in some invisible ritual dance, then brings to life music that is as heavy as sludge, as mind-altering as the most out-there psychedelia, and as hypnotic as krautrock.
While the album’s eight tracks are wildly disparate in their actual manifestations—from chant-cum-growl polyphonies backed by spaced-out synth rays and grave piano stabs to progressive crust and sludge in the vein of early YOB and explosions of harsh noise—they maintain a singular overarching narrative thread and sense of ambiance. The transitions between them are elegant, and the stylistic choices feel purposeful—lovely individual contributions to an impressive, pensive whole. – Antonio Poscic
Sundowning – In the Light of Defeat, I Cease to Exist (Isolation)
Another band awakens from deep hibernation. Sundowning made their entrance at the height of post-metal. Influenced the atmospherics of ISIS and the meticulous structures of Cult of Luna, and throwing in their own blend of post-hardcore, Sundowning unleashed a terrific debut in Seizures of the World. Unfortunately, this would also be their sole record until today. Now they return with their sophomore album, In The Light of Defeat, I Cease To Exist, more poignant and pressing than ever.
Sundowning still subscribe to the gritty edge of the post-metal spectrum. Their main force arrives from their unparalleled weight. Distorted guitars roar through the long-form tracks, causing unassumed graphic violence with the terrific breakdowns of “Imminent Ache”. Taking on the teachings of the great the Psyke Project, Sundowning infuse a post-hardcore sense with blackened malice. It is something that shines with an eeriness in “Armor of Indifference”. From there on, their sludge lineage gets further augmented. A funereal edge invokes “Exists Don’t Exist” as pensive tones accompany the processional.
Yet, In the Light of Defeat, I Cease to Exist does not stop there. The atmospherics of post-metal are still vibrant, causing the dichotomy with the heavier self. A cathartic moment of spiritualism is enacted with the clean vocal midway through “Imminent Ache”, leading to a strange moment of neo-classical aspiration. And this is just scratching the surface. “A Prison, A Cage” finds Sundowing taking on a majestic quality, the clean guitar at the start of the title track further establishing this quality. And when pushed to extremes, it is either the bitter psychedelia at the end of the opening track or the noise rock onslaught in “Armor of Indifference”. It is all these elements that provide In the Light of Defeat, I Cease to Exist with its rich, multifaceted presence. And makes it a triumphant return to form for Sundowning. – Spyros Stasis
Sylvaine – Nova (Season of Mist)
Kathrine Shepard’s project Sylvaine has straddled the divide between dreamy, atmospheric pop and rough black metal through her entire career, with one side or the other becoming the dominating force across her opus. This process culminated in 2018’s Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone, which found the balance between the two strains of influence in Sylvaine’s sound. While instrumentally heavy, it was a mutedly optimistic record, with bright lights playing in the mist.
In contrast to that album, Nova feels dense, dark, and heavy, despite the prevalence of almost purely pop cuts like the acoustic, singsong of “Nova”, the gossamer shoegaze of “Nowhere, Still Somewhere”, or the gentle instrumental patchwork of “Everything Must Come to an End”. This rings especially true in “Fortapt” and “I Close My Eyes So I Can See.” Both of these songs bathe in gorgeous contrasts of emo/black metal screams and Shepard’s ethereal singsong, and release their emotional burdens before the beautiful gothic pop of “Dissolution” closes the album in a style reminiscent of later-era The Gathering. – Antonio Poscic