Samothrace may have just released their sophomore record Reverence to Stone. Yet this dispatch from Monkey Towers, while Samothracian in subject, will barely mention that.
Instead, my thoughts about that record’s 2008 predecessor, Life’s Trade – hands down one of the best records I have heard this year – have finally coagulated.
So, in the absence of my having got my arse in gear to properly digest the new one, you can read Sawtooth Wave‘s take on it, if that’s what you are after.
Otherwise, let’s see if we can get a handle on an album that takes 47 minutes to unravel four songs.
Samothrace seem to be glacial motherfuckers in general. It took them four years to follow up this record… with two songs!
So it’s perhaps natural that it’s taken me three months of living with Life’s Trade after my interest was piqued by some Reverence to Stone pre-release blog comment hype to be ready to post (and six pars to get to the bloody point).
This is moody, emotionally-fraught sludgy doom that unfurls ever so slowly and recursively.
Patience is needed, sure, but it’s never really tested. Samothrace are masters of slowly circling around a riff or melodic motif to examine it from every angle before letting it take flight.
Sometimes this process of repetition and subtle variation takes place in a single song, elsewhere themes resurface later giving the record a real sense of coherence and continuity.
Sonorous and sure of itself, every note on Life’s Trade feels absolutely deliberate as if chewed over and thought about for many years.
The black metal rasp of the occasional vocals is the best I have heard. Abrasive but somehow warm and half-submerged in the mix.
There are many painfully sad moments, so redolent with emotion and yet in no way bleak or even dark.
The overarching atmosphere is melancholic but perhaps optimistic.
Aching, clean leads spiral ever so slowly downwards through layers of droning reverb and distortion that shift and roll like banks early morning fog.
You get lost in it only to latch onto a shimmering finger-picked melody, half-audible.
The notes of the simple lead lines are somehow clean and yet distorted, played vibrato, so they quiver like a soul staring into the abyss.
Subtle fades and powerful returns, riffs like waves towering above then crashing on the shore.
The whole thing: played with fucking feeling.
You’ll spend most of the 47 minutes nodding your head with equal feeling, a slo-mo emo(tional) headbang.
Except for around 90 seconds in Cacophony around the 7:30 mark when Samothrace crank out a catchy, almost crunchy, hard rock riff that is as much surprise as pure release.
For be warned: this record is emotionally draining. It rips your fucking heart out as you get swept up in it and yet has you coming back for more.
[New one is also on Bandcamp and Spotify]