Review Summary: the right ingredients.
When it comes to the point where a genre is becoming stagnant, the only possible solution is to diversify, right? While incorporating a variety of styles into the mould of another can be compositionally catastrophic, some small proportion of bands do get it right and end up with a record that just ‘works’. While Snowblood certainly is rough around the edges, the way they’ve made a sludge record that retains its destructive ‘old school’ sludge feel yet still appeals to the fans of the trendier, more accessible derivative styles of post-metal, is remarkably noteworthy. This is almost certainly due to the fact that Snowblood do not go down the path of mediocre ambiance with their music, and whatever ‘post-metal’ that is found on the record is constantly overshadowed by tidal wave riffs and pure hatred in sludge form.
is the Scottish group’s third and final album – after its release, they disbanded, leaving the record as what they will be remembered by. Now I’ve not had the opportunity to explore their first two albums, but I will make the claim that they certainly finished on a high note. While the record has some passages that consistently irk me, the amalgamation of sludge metal with various post-rock/metal influences, as well as the flirtation with European styled emotional hardcore, is done remarkably well, and keeps the album constantly interesting and affecting.
If and when the praises of post-metal bands like Pelican
are spouted to me, my general reaction is to say ‘get the fu
ck out, where’s Neurosis
?’, but I can certainly learn to be civil when the best from those bands is taken aboard by an invariably less monotonous style of music. Snowblood certainly take a great deal of influence from the climactic rise and build approach taken by these ‘post-whatever’ bands, blending them within their own sound. The album’s second track only really makes use of two very similar progressions, but the way it culminates from a soft and steady standstill to a cascading downpour of poignant riffage is exemplary.
When I first listened to the record I was immediately put off by its beginning – the opening minutes are made up of a nauseating mixture of Neurosis and Killswitch Engage
, and so I was incredibly dubious about the album after reading that it was a ‘sludge’ band on the promotional material. After five minutes however, the song exploded into what Snowblood really sounded like. The way this moment is mixed simply must be mentioned – the slight difference in volume makes the transition so much heavier. So what did it sound like? Some of the best sludge I’ve heard, that’s what. Imagine a heavier Graves at Sea
but with Thou
’s unrepentant fury and perhaps a sprinkling of Dystopia
’s sneering rage, and you have Snowblood at their heaviest. The first track is almost twenty minutes long and is perhaps the ‘colossus’ of the record – a good way to begin after fooling us with the mediocre intro.
What makes Snowblood
such a good record is that even if it’s a section of simple composition, the music is always emotive to the utmost degree, regardless of the emotion (anger, melancholy, frustration) that is being conveyed. The record’s third track plays out very much like a Yndi Halda
inspired post-rock song but gradually builds its way into something I would expect from the European hardcore scene, sounding very much like the bands Aussitôt Mort
, Mesa Verde
or Sed Non Satiata
. While these bands may not mean anything to your average metal listener, it’s a commendation to the band to have been able successfully incorporate such a distinct style into a sludge metal record. If you were thinking that there couldn’t possibly be any more variety on this record than I apologize, you’ll have to bear with me just a little longer. The fourth song begins with something that sounds a lot like Tool
and a little like Neurosis on The Eye of Every Storm
, but Snowblood do not waste too much time with this and throw the listener back into their sonic devastation. I guess after two songs of melody and melancholy, they were aching to get stomping once again.
Ultimately, it’s very unfortunate that this is Snowblood’s last record. It encapsulates this modern sense of diversity within music, and melds together various ‘modern’ sub-genres as well as both accessible and inaccessible styles of music to create a varied and absorbing album. I of course have my own issues with the album – it’s certainly not perfect. The clean singing, while fitting nicely in the last track, sounds terrible on the first 5 minutes of the album, but rest assured that everything else is strikingly good. Perhaps the band purposely made the beginning of the record shi
tty, to deter posers and make the rest of it sound monumental in comparison. Regardless, Snowblood
is an outstanding record, and while it would certainly be appealing to the new wave of doom listeners, I’m sure veterans of the genre will not find the album amiss either.