Wow, this one took me by surprise. Pairing the instrumental expansive ebb and flow mastery of Pelican with the shoegazing reflectiveness of Katatonia, and progressive tendencies and meticulous songcrafting associated with bands like Enslaved and Opeth, Sepia Dreamer have released a wolf in sheep’s clothing in The Sublime. True, these guys aren’t rubbing elbows with luminaries like the aforementioned bands just yet, but Sepia Dreamer demonstrate a great deal of class and creativity on their second effort, which also happens to be the second offering from Leon Macey’s (Mithras) Galactic Records. The two-piece band, consisting of Sam Brokenshaw (guitar/keyboard/programming) and Jonas Wrenninge (bass/keyboard/programming) was also fortunate enough to secure Macey’s services as a session drummer.
The four songs on The Sublime combine for three quarters of an hour, with most of that time split between the two hulking middle compositions, “The Exposition” and “Development.” The shortest of the set, the two-minute opener “Gateway”, serves as just that, as its ethereal waves of synth programming and basic guitar pattern provide a spacey, dream-like portal into the album’s core, but once “The Exposition” kicks in, Sepia Dreamer transition to the more active, moody synth programming–along with the occasional well-placed piano lines–that serves as a substantial foundation of their sound. The guitar, bass and drums come and go throughout the songs, frequently taking center stage to deal out some fairly heavy battery. The concept of the sublime is concerned with the terrifying beauty of nature, and the band conveys that through seamlessly alternating between graceful intricacies and powerful, riff-driven, metal. The material isn’t overly technical, but definitely has a pronounced cerebral complexity. However, the development and phrasing here is tremendously impressive. Everything is exactly where it should be, from the emotive, melodic guitar leads to the rise and fall crescendos and the non-traditional scattered, jazz-like drum work (the band made Macey work his ass off as a session drummer). Most of these songs are long as hell, but don’t feel a bit bloated, even without lyrics, and skillfully dance between repeating central themes, dynamic shifts and well-explored excursions, as well as loads of wank-free solo work, all of which supports the structure and trajectory of the songs. The band builds to climax with the best of them and the noisy, dizzying culmination of the nineteen(!) minute “Development” is just..., well, sublime.
As a music fanatic, there’s nothing better than discovering an album that really knocks you for a loop, especially when you expected little from it to start with. The Sublime has gotten a good twenty or so spins, and hasn’t lost an ounce of its luster as a complex, beautiful, and powerful work. This is a talented band that deserves the attention of fans of music that defies classification and is challenging yet sidesteps pretension. I’ve also gotta mention the stellar opening bow from the fledgling Galactic Records. Between this and the Sarpanitum record, they’ve made one hell of a debut. If that wasn’t enough, Macey has also just unleashed one behemoth of an album with some band called Mithras. Get out your wallets, kids.