Without changing their identity, Sannhet travels deep within their core to further progress their unclassifiable sound on So Numb.
Instrumental Brooklyn-based trio Sannhet has been on a fiery course since the release of their excellent debut, Known Flood, back in 2013. While they did not aimlessly expand their sound in the works that followed, they still allowed a different side of their entity to come into the light. That was the case with their sophomore full-length, 2015's Revisionist, which offered a different take on the post-rock/sludge/black metal hybrid. Moving further away from the harsher and edgier quality of Known Flood, the band stepped with confidence into the melodic side.
So Numb taps with even more certainty into that melodic element, presenting a mellower mode and a more well-rounded presentation. It comes down to how Sannhet's production has changed over the years, as well as how having Peter Katis at the helm has helped the band explore a more intimate representation of their identity. Given that Katis is known for his work with alternative and indie bands (Interpol, the Twilight Sad, and Frightened Rabbit), his presence and experience acted as catalysts for Sannhet's sonic development.
Sannhet was always a melodic band, but So Numb takes this factor to another level. The title track brilliantly displays this behavior, revealing some of the most hook-filled work the band has ever produced. The phrasing is moving, and the underlying emotional quality comes alive through the progression. In an instrumental record -- where the only weapons in the arsenal of the artist are their melody, rhythm, atmosphere, and sonic creativity -- it's essential to be able to communicate with the listener on a more basic level, finding emotion in the sound rather than the words. That is an inherently difficult task, but through the high verbosity of their riff-based approach, the trio awakens a plethora of diverse moods throughout this work, from sadness and melancholy (which was a constant in their previous work) to a cathartic and ultimately peaceful characteristic. “Secondary Arrows” travels the whole range of that spectrum, balancing sadness and hopefulness to reach a moment of solace before retreating into tranquility.
So Numb is a record of energy, and that is something contradictory to the post-metal dimension, which usually takes a more passive form. But from the very start of the album (with “Indigo Illusion”), the band appears active and engaged, putting the pedal down and running with the groove and riffs in tracks like “Sleep Well”. Despite this urge to action, Sannhet displays a more patient outlook than they previously had. Ideas appear more thoroughly configured and the structures are more solid and less elusive than on the past two records. The band methodically explores their ideas, allowing them to flourish over time and discover all that they offer. This is especially apparent in the longer tracks, like “Fernbeds”.
Sannhet was always an unclassifiable act, not so much in that the different components of their sound did not make sense or were completely novel, but in how they molded them together to blur genre lines. This is particularly true when it comes to their treatment of post-metal and black metal, with the two styles becoming a singularity through Sannhet's kaleidoscope. Finding the shared elements of atmosphere and ritualism, a track like “Salts” begins in an almost Wolves in the Throne Room-like fashion, with a slight folkish take and a desolate narrative before the grand post-metal melodies swoop in. On the other end, this meeting of philosophies appears in harsher moments; for instance, “Sapphire” finds ethereal melodies meeting dissonance states of confrontation, while "Way Out” sees the band exploring a more animalistic side, applying the full extent of extreme metal with blastbeats and an aggressive perspective.
The group claims that So Numb is a record dealing with the concept of false safety, an idea that's even depicted on the album cover, where a mother tries to shield her child's eyes, creating the illusion of a safe space. Listening to the album, you feel like Sannhet rejects that notion of living inside a bubble -- an illusory world -- and instead meditates on life's imperfect escapes. Their eyes are wide open to all the pains of life, but also the joys that come alongside them, and that is why So Numb feels like such a complete work. It does not conceal anything, bad or good.