Review Summary: Alaskan bludgeon, raze, and then make you stop and think.
Human history is filled with disasters. Air disasters; natural disasters; disasters during wartime; disasters during peace; disasters that could have been prevented and disasters that were unforeseeable. In their debut full-length, Alaskan focus on four such events from around the globe, all having taken place within 5 years of the album's release - 2007's Flight 3054 (in 'Congonhas', the name of the airport), 2010's Pike River Mine disaster ('Atarau', the nearest settlement), the Atlas Creek pipe explosion in 2006, and the collapse of a hostel in Mecca, also in 2006. These are dealt with as powerful vignettes, written as first hand accounts of the horrific events as they take place, and are the reason Adversity; Woe
is the sobering tale that it is.
is such a commanding listen because the Canadians are able to strike the fine balance between monolithic heaviness and more vulnerable traits so well. Combining the aggressive, granular sounds so synonymous with the sludge genre and post-metal's more 'pretty', progressive tendencies, the result is something that is undeniably heavy, yet is never so in such a way that seems volatile. Exemplifying this is the vocal performance; an occasionally indecipherable roar that complements the bottom-heavy riffing perfectly, yet is able to carry the emotion of pained anguish convincingly and importantly concurrently. Musically the album is stunning, with melancholic waves of guitars that pierce through the distorted bass and drums that cut through when needed, highlighting and in doing so being the main points of emphasis throughout. What the lengthier tracks lack in individuality is more than made up for in passion, and the total running time (a dab less than 40 minutes) means that Alaska don't outstay their welcome any longer than necessary.
Whether or not this is partially a product of the artwork's influence is debatable, but Adversity; Woe
carries a vaguely nautical feel maintained through all 7 tracks. In some, this is lent by a rolling sway given to the riffs (prominent in the first half of leviathan 'Congonhas' and 'Mecca'). In the softer tracks, the elements that bring this maritime air are more subtle - be it the mournful, foghorn-like ending to intro track 'Realisation', or the beautiful whalesong heard throughout acoustic break 'Interruption'.
The sad thing about the world is that, as there are so many disasters and wrongdoings, many simply go unreported, buried as 'just another statistic' and bear significance only to those in the immediate vicinity. This is a self-defence mechanism in many ways, though an uncomfortable one when you stop to think about it. Alaskan bring just four to the forefront, commemorated in music, and in doing so provoke a painful but perhaps necessary way of thinking.