Review Summary: Great band from the UK with a not so great name.
Really inventive and original Post Metal is a bit hard to come by these days. Although the genre’s leading acts are far from being clones of one another, they nevertheless rely on many of the same ideas and formulas. Implementing spacey textures, shifting dynamics, and a few carefully placed crescendos, what may not result in similar music, inevitably results in similar atmospherics. It would be a rather bold statement to say that the UK’s Snowblood redefines such an established genre, however they are certainly doing something creative and new within the context. At the very least, they are bringing a new atmosphere to the table: combining traditional Post Rock and Post Metal with chaotic Sludge and Doom Metal freakouts. Carefully balancing subtle Minor progressions and Dark Ambient textures with drudging chaos, they seem to fall somewhere between ISIS, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Engine Down….with a healthy dose of eyehategod and Electric Wizard thrown in.
Like most of their peers, Snowblood thrives on the atmosphere. They do everything in their power to create an atmosphere that is both unsettling and rather primal, making good use of long ambient passages, droning guitar parts, and distorted voiceovers. Being and Becoming
is a slow burner in every sense of the word, however it doesn’t necessarily build to any kind of climax. The shifting dynamics are rather unpredictable, and it’s hard to predict the musical direction the first few listens through. Whenever the band decides to get heavy, it comes out of nowhere; and is usually an expansion on themes already presented. The vocals range from soothing chants, to growling, to some throat shredding shrieks that wouldn’t be out of place on a Khanate record. Being and Becoming
sounds like Post Metal played by guys with a penchant for the darker things in life. Their music is clearly influenced by their Scottish heritage, in it’s construction, atmosphere, and lyrical content. It’s hard to find the right word to describe it, but the music is rather ritualistic, however it’s in a sincere sense; and never feels corny or trite. Rather it is reflective, personal, and humanizing, even at it’s most polarizing moments.
As far as the instrumentation goes, all the members know their role. There is nothing too technical afoot, however there are some rather complex ideas behind how the guitars and bass work together, they play off each other exceptionally well and have some very interesting weaving harmonies. The drumming draws as much influence on Tribal and Metal music as it does on New Wave and Hip Hop; accentuating everything the band tries to do superbly. All the musicians are tight, and they work very well together to achieve the atmosphere they all strive for. It’s like they are all on the same wavelength, and each of them has the same goal. Whenever the band chooses to incorporate a Cello(Out Of Harm’s Way, Appearance) the results are stunning, and it’s a shame there isn’t a more prevalent string section. Their influences are rather obvious, drawing from bands like Neurosis, Engine Down, eyehategod, and Slint. The vocals are one of the album highlights, ranging from clean chants, to bellowing roars, to throat shredding shrieks that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Khanate record. The music is fairly midtempo, and although it occasionally slows down to a snail’s pace, it rarely speeds up to say….the speed of an Elk perhaps.
Admittedly, there are quite a few flaws to be found on Being and Becoming
. Building an atmosphere is clearly one of the band’s main goals; however it can become excessive. At almost seventeen minutes, “Black Stars Over Glasgow” takes a bit too long to really get going; and what would be an otherwise fantastic song suffers because of it. Also, although the maniacal vocals and crushing distortion are a gorgeous complement to the pretty clean sections; they begin to wear on the listener after awhile. The first few times the listener hears David Tobin coughing blood up into his microphone it is a simply wonderful experience, but by the albums end it grows rather tiring. Granted, fans of Sludge and Doom will love the chaotic heavy sections that the album offers, as they grow almost hypnotic towards the later tracks; however these fatiguing sections can easily tire the average listener. On that note, the clean sections are much stronger and more differential than the heavier parts. There is some simply beautiful music here, and a lot of the time it overshadows the heavy moments. The first couple tracks are also rather weak, especially when compared to the rest of the album.
These complaints are however, minimal, and are easily made up for the in the context of the album. There are faults present, however the album works so well together that they are hard to really pick out. I will admit, after dropping the word “Post Metal” a few times, Snowblood really isn’t a Post Metal band. When I listen to how their music builds, it’s the first genre I think of, however it is really just four friends combining all the different bands they love. Maybe that’s why it’s such an effective listen, how honest and sincere it all feels. The musicians behind Snowblood sound more like a few friends jamming together than a few friends making music to accompany a ritualistic sacrifice, and that’s the way it should be. Make no mistake about it, Being and Becoming
takes the listener places, but only places that he feels good about going to. It might take a bit of patience, and a few repeated listens, but Being and Becoming
is an extremely rewarding listen, and shouldn’t be missed by anyone who is even a casual fan of Heavy Metal or Post Metal.