Review Summary: sun rays pummel earthward.
Though it may seem rather reductionist to liken a band to the influences that spawned the realization of their sound, it's nonetheless a useful tool for painting something as obtuse as words over the immaterial substance we call music. After all, everything accomplished in the world of music up to this point has been driven by the desire to blend influence with new ideas. Sometimes these individual influences are obfuscated through divergent aesthetics, but more often than not an artist's inspiration is rather apparent if we understand the history of their sonic genetics. In the case of Sunless, that influence is clear as day: a fresh mix of abstracted, Gorguts-ian songwriting swathed with the dense, claustrophobic soundscapes that pertain to this discordant brand of death metal. Stylistically wedged between Colored Sands'
scholarly labyrinths of atmosphere and Obscura
's bewilderingly dense urgency, Sunless may be wearing their influences on their proverbial sleeves here, but it feels almost sinful to reduce them to such skeletal stylistic comparisons; Urraca
deserves far more credit than that. After all, it's one thing to borrow influence and in turn admirably pay homage to predecessors, but to create something that genuinely lives up to its inspirations in terms of quality and innovation is another thing entirely.
is a deep album. It's deep in the scope of its ambition, and it's deep in the sheer amount of subtle richness that becomes revealed through numerous dedicated listens. What may initially appear as a relentless, angular exercise in needless technicality soon becomes a rich and naturally flowing tapestry of sound, rife with nuanced, puzzle-like builds that fall into cathartic and thought provoking releases of intricate groove. The brilliance really lies in the subtle dynamics here, with the interplay between instruments serving as the essential breeding ground for this album's real "wow" moments. As a result, Urraca
rewards attentiveness and - save for the few spacious grooves - repels casual absorption.
Sunless really are masters of their discipline, especially for such a young band. The instrumentation borders on savant, but regardless of each members' experience on their individual tools, to see a band play so tightly together on a debut album is truly impressive. This quality is only bolstered by the fine tuned production, handled by Colin Marston of - you guessed it - Gorguts fame. His midas touch graces many exemplary metal albums and his work on Urraca
is no less apt. The drums are roomy and organic, offering a graciously varied foundation for the rest of the band to work with. On top of these gymnastic rhythms that slither through mazes of mathematical intrigue, the guitars glisten with a bright richness, leaving plenty of room for the taught bass to flex its brazen grit. Overall, the palette of sound here is overflowing with naturally dynamic textures channeled through chromatic songwriting that never reduces itself to theatrical nonsensity.
Turbid as it may be, Urraca
moves with a clear intent from start to finish. As the album progresses, the songs become more climactic in shape and atmosphere as the more splendid moments of melodic catharsis become increasingly developed. The closing minutes "Magpie" are a prime example, as actuated riffs that would only hint at a full picture earlier in the album become robust and sweep the control of fragmented movements into an orderly reflection of themselves. Speckling the album in varying measure throughout, it's within these moments of reflection and atmospheric reprieve that the compositions are given time to meditate on their obscured self-awareness. This not only allows Sunless to remain benevolently intriguing without sacrificing an iota of intelligence or certitude, but also keep the feverishly hallucinatory nature of the soundscapes from becoming overbearing. The detailed work that underpins this meticulous and methodical approach is what really sets the band apart, and it's within the dynamics of this element that their true sense of identity meets the veil of their influences.
is a fully-realized, devilishly-detailed album whose rich intricacies and nuanced genius will forever cement it as a timeless work of forward thinking death metal. Fans of the progressive and deviant side of the genre shouldn't have any trouble holding this album in the high esteem of the style's most lauded releases. Indeed, Urraca
is a brilliantly mature release overflowing with cerebral complexity executed to full potential, and has more than enough artistic depth in its 44 minute runtime to offer new discoveries upon every listen. With their debut album, Sunless have offered us a breathtaking, fully-realized album whose rich intricacies will keep you coming back long after think you've become acquainted with the depth of its knowledge.