posted on 10/2010 By:
Sometimes it’s good when things go badly.
Unearthly Trance has been plugging away for ten years. This Brooklyn doom outfit has gigged incessantly and put out four full-length albums, along with countless demos and splits. The bulk of their growing reputation rests on their two previous Relapse Records releases, The Trident and Electrocution.
Those albums helped grow Unearthly Trance’s fanbase because they were so well-balanced—sometimes crawling and sometimes speedy, psychedelic and yet vicious, intimidating but full of hooks. The band’s unique blend of elements allowed them to appeal to a lot of people while retaining a distinctive identity.
V does not attempt to replicate its predecessors’ successes. Gone are the fast tempos, the plentiful hooks, and the ostentatious hardcore influences. Instead, we get a comparatively conservative slab of stripped-down, skeletal doom metal.
Consequently, this album doesn’t hit as hard as its immediate predecessors. There are no ready-made fan favorites like “God is a Beast” or “Permanent Ice,” and no blackened raveups like “The Dust Will Never Settle.” Unearthly Trance will undoubtedly alienate some of their more recent fans with this less-accessible turn.
But in spite of its failure to immediately excite, V highlights two features that have helped make Unearthly Trance one of the best doom bands in the game today. The first is the band’s ability to work magic with straightforward, meat-and-taters power chord riffage. “Solar Eye,” “Into a Chasm,” “Sleeping While They Feast” and “Unveiled” turn simple progressions into monumental sonic sculptures, thanks in large part to drummer Darren Verni’s absolutely monstrous pounding.
More importantly, though, V’s sparse compositions highlight Unearthly Trance’s unique emotional character. For all their supernatural thematic trappings, UT evoke a distinct air of personal tragedy. “Adversaries Mask 1” and album highlight “Submerged Metropolis” combine noisy urban menace with despondent, surprisingly open melodies. The key ingredient here is guitarist Ryan Lipynsky’s spectacular vocal presence. Cliché though it may be, he sounds genuinely disturbed as he rasps and howls through this album—a man trapped amid the wreckage of his own society.
Of course, none of this will provide any satisfaction to those who think of Unearthly Trance as nothing more than High on Fire’s dope-smoking understudies. Even as a long-standing fan of the band, I can’t help but feel slightly disappointed by V. In this sense, the album was a mistake; Unearthly Trance’s career would have been better served by maintaining the tone set by The Trident and Electrocution. Or perhaps not. Some mistakes—including this one—are worth making.
Register to post comments.