At This Great Depth is the debut album from Cork metal outfit Soothsayer and is the second offering of their own brand of blackened doom, following on from their self-titled 2015 EP. Releasing an album with only two tracks which clock in at almost 25 minutes is a bold move and a resounding statement of confidence from the band in the fruits of their labor. From initial listening it seems they have been busy refining this latest contribution into a more progressive beast than its predecessor.
Who do they sound like I hear you ask? Well, for a change I’ll forgo the cliched approach of comparing and contrasting with more established acts; which rarely tends to do either party any favors anyway, I’ll try paint a brief and accurate picture of the album’s strength and weaknesses.
There’s a rawness to At This Great Depth; the production style is far from crisp, which lends itself well to this kind of music, being in a way more ‘authentic’. Those accustomed to this style should feel at home, however it may alienate some listeners and could be viewed as a step back from the more polished sound of their debut EP.
Stylistically, there are welcome developments but no huge changes between At This Great Depth and its predecessor. The guitars still feature a mixture of crushing riffs juxtaposed with more melodic and restrained passages. The drums morph between chilled backbeats and full out blasting whilst the vocals are ever versatile and capricious. The most striking development is in the amount of ideas on display. Whilst prolonged, atmospheric build ups still make an appearance across both tracks, in this case they are a means to an end rather than the meaning itself.
Take opening track Umpire. This slow burner starts off with a lonely guitar riff made distant by a modulating hi pass filter. It introduces a demented theme in a subtle crescendo before disappearing again into the distance, undulating around the other instruments. There is a psychedelic quality to the music which builds with shamanistic patience amid a cascade of drums and Tuvan throat singing. Eventually, the pent up rage is released in a wall of noise which the band have patiently conjured during this six and a half minute séance.
The composition style has undoubtedly developed. The increased rhythmic variety from both the guitar and drums results in a more defined musical structure, littered with elements of interest. A brief moment of pause or an unexpected rhythmic shift prevents each daunting track from becoming too stale and provides some respite for the listener. This ‘push and pull’ effect; which its predecessor lacked to a degree, is welcome since a lot of the music in this genre aimlessly meanders from riff to riff with no end goal.
The haunting vocals which herald the arrival of the second track Of Locusts and Moths also promises much. One can sense a continuation of the quasi spiritual overtones, intermixed with feral outbursts at uncertain periods. However, the track fails to maintain its power over its 8 minute run time and eventually degrades into something which is not quite at home with everything else on the album. The ideas seem to run a little thin, as the track draws to a close resulting in somewhat of an anti climax.It seems to be an inversion of how the album begins. Perhaps its intentional?
Despite the somewhat ponderous closing section, At This Great Depth is a strong release from a band who seem to have found their voice and have matured into a quality act. It also demonstrates that Irish bands can continue to be proactive in their contribution to the metal oeuvre and not just reactive to the latest trends.
At This Great Depth‘s two tracks contain enough ideas and are crafted skilfully enough to make repeated listening essential, and an ultimately rewarding experience.
At This Great Depth is available now on Transcending Obscurity records.