Review Summary: The sprawling progressive nature of this post metal band’s second release makes for a steep learning curve, but it’s worth making the effort in order for the songs to finally click.
This is a tough album to get into. At the Soundawn take elements of post rock, post metal and progressive and mix them into one amorphous collection of songs. They allow each track to slowly evolve towards an eventual finale that can consist of everything from sparse tranquility to crushing heaviness during the process. Each track’s extended duration allows it to accomplish this excursion in the most gradual and natural of manners, rarely returning to a motif that they’ve previously touched on. They also avoid elements as arbitrary as hooks or a defined direction in favor of abstraction and an ever-present sense of movement. Instead of succumbing to normal convention, they allow the musical atmospheres and powerful vocals to provide their hook – and the constant influx of melodies carries the listener forward despite the lack of a defined routine.
Each track’s gradual progression is punctuated by the band’s creative rhythm section. The bass and drums are almost constantly locked into busy interplays that weave throughout the melodies. They can shift from subtle tribal accentuations to pounding low-end with ease, but are almost consistently entwined with the melodies and riffs in some innovative fashion regardless. As much as the music shines with its various ebbs-and-flows, so do the vocals. The gravel-throated delivery of Luca De Stefano is the source that pushes the intensity of the dissonant sections and his expressive clean singing lends the songs a soul that would otherwise be missing. Accentuating the main elements of each song are thin layers of ambient synth, occasional “found sounds” and brass instrumentation (or at least a trumpet or two). These occasional elements are the final pieces required to complete the band’s creative take on the post metal genre.
Whether this sounds interesting on paper or not, the fact of the matter is that the freeform characteristics of the music makes this an album that requires an attentive listener that’s willing to devote a bit of time getting to know the various shifts and turns of each track. Until that familiarity is reached, listening to this album will probably go by without much retention of any specific sections or elements. Listening to this could easily be compared to driving a street for the first time – until the various landmarks become familiar, any trip down that street ends with vague memories and a lack of anything solid to hold onto. With Shifting
, though, the repeated trips are definitely worth the reward.