Reverence To Stone
posted on 8/2012 By:
Unfortunately, many doom, drone, or sludge-oriented bands use extended songs and / or sparse compositional tactics as unwieldy splints for their underdeveloped songwriting sinews. In the worst — or best, depending on how you look at it — cases, they’re merely masking their irrelevancy with inaccessibility. (It’s similar to the tactics employed by the black metal also-rans of yesteryear, only instead of adopting the “necro” aesthetic and drowning their lack of dexterity in layers of distortion, they’re making music that lies beyond the limits of a normal human’s attention span. You can’t critique what you can’t even finish.)
Fear not, fans of brevity: Samothrace is not such an entity.
Nor are they succinct, by any stretch, but Samothrace is the rare band that uses their space advantageously. The glacial spirals they deploy aren't used in an effort to sap the listener's soul through a war of attrition. Instead, this long-awaited sophomore effort comes off like an effort to somehow encapsulate the ascendancy of their own souls before they evaporate. It’s a journey from swirling depths into majestic flight, using a funereal crawl (without mourning) and post-whatever expanses (trope-free) to grasp and manipulate their dissipating sands.
Essentially, Samothrace has picked up right where their debut, Life’s Trade, left off.
Thing is, Life’s Trade was released way back in 2008. Now, imagine a scenario where a beloved, cherished entity takes an agonizing four years (or so) to produce new material. When that new material finally arises — sneakily, amidst minimal hype and fanfare — it's in the form of a mere two songs spanning thirty-four minutes. And you're overjoyed.
Behold Reverence to Stone.
Opener “When We Emerged” bears an appropriate title, and not just in allusion to the band’s literal resurgence. The initial doomtrudge rumbles like granite-caked eyelids peeling themselves from slumber, utilizing traditional tones and vast expanses of negative space to build a deceptively gentle tension. When Brian Spinks’ vocals finally burst from the horizon — a full four minutes in — the rock quakes free. His tortured, guttural howl appears rarely, but when it does, the heavens tremble with pain and regret as they peel his lungs from his chest.
Awash in glory, the six minute mark brings…a riff. A sweet, satisfying riff that quickly plays its hands into one of those glorious, blues-soaked solos that we’ve been waiting forty-odd months to hear. (This band thrives on solos; for all their downtempo skinstretch, they somehow maintain the ability to rock like a motherfucker. Albeit slowly.)
Once “When We Emerged” climbs back down the mountain, “A Horse of Our Own” leans in straightaway, its rippin’ lead guitar smoothness setting the stage for a healthy dose of Spinks’ cavernous roar. The climactic stomp riff that apexes the song, is, well, climatic, delivering serious satisfaction before the band once again disappears into the ether. Samothrace, for all of their willingness to take their sweet-ass time, never denies a payoff.
Trouble is, these payoffs are severely addicting, and Samothrace is horrifyingly stingy. Granted, the massive gap between Life’s Trade and Reverence to Stone was likely due to shifts of lineup and location, not miserly spite. But these two (two!) songs are a colossal tease. One can only hope that Reverence to Stone is the beginning of a fruitful cycle.
The world waits.
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