Review Summary: A bit more now than just your everyday Isis clone, Sarin’s new album Darker Lakes is a feast for multiple senses.
The road for Toronto-based post-metal band Sarin hasn’t been the easiest. Aside from various lineup changes the band underwent in between their stunning 2015 album Burial Dream
and this year’s release Darker Lakes
, Sarin has had difficulty shaking off its annoying and pestering label as merely an “Isis clone”. While the quality of the work Sarin has put out is unquestionably strong, it’s admittedly hard to dispute the “clone” label. 2013’s EP House of Leaves
echoes genre legends Isis’ early days (Mosquito Control
, The Red Sea
, maybe a bit of Celestial
) while Burial Dream
shifted them forward along the Isis timeline and re-enacts the sound they had on their megahits Oceanic
. On the latter album, opener “As Well as the Body” truly does sound like Isis’ “So Did We” and it’s hard not to shake the feeling of how the ending of following track “Monograph” sounds eerily similar to the final climax of “From Sinking” off Oceanic
. But when you hear the band talk about the writing process and these criticisms, they don’t seem quite phased by it and their new album Darker Lakes
not only incorporated a heavier collaboration between all members, it’s the first release of theirs that can’t be so easily placed on the post-metal spectrum. And while singer and guitarist David Wilson’s growls will still draw the Aaron Turner comparisons, the music itself deviates a bit, involving deeper textures and a heftier use of ambience and electronics this time around. Look no further than the glorious outro of second track “Amber Guide”, where the electronics provide an oddly optimistic and almost cheerful tone (Sarin’s very own version of Panopticon’s
“Backlit” if you will. I’ll stop now with the Isis comparisons, I promise).
Wilson stated in interviews that the inspiration behind the album was partially from a day-long hike he took in the Oak Ridges Moraine area, which is in the far north of the Greater Toronto area. During the hike he recalls getting lost and the connections he drew between the ever-shifting natural landscapes of the foundation and the feelings he experienced interacting with them. The record itself is lyrically based around coping with anxiety and respecting the fact that anxiety requires deep introspection and even isolation in order to both understand and sometimes promote healing.
What the album also evokes (whether intentional or not) is this feeling that the instrumentation is meant to depict the landscape itself, both in sound and texture. All three interludes dubbed “Darker Lakes” bear names similar to well-known lakes in the Western parts of North America (Moraine, Crater, and Glacier), each track using eerie sound samples and electronics to feel cavernous and murky. The actual full-length tracks cover different aspects of nature’s elements (ice, fire, vegetation, and water) and the music itself reflects that. The jagged dissonance and crashing guitars of “Ice Wrought” literally feel like chunks of glaciers breaking and collapsing, complimented by contrasting use of cleans and muffled harsh vocals to create shifting dynamics in the music. “Embers Circling Downward” begins with heart racing John Carpenter Halloween
-esque electronics before it unexpectedly breaks through with crushing guitars to throw the listener off. It feels claustrophobic and anxious, with chugging riffs that almost mimic the flowing yet destructive nature molten lava has. Elsewhere, highlight “Bloom” feels a bit more organic in its construction, with raw, exotic-sounding percussions entering the mix halfway through. Finally, “Ocean Burn” has a more progressive feel, building and swelling up slowly like a wave before eventually crashing into a mess of drums and cymbals. Sarin does get caught in a bit of a self-indulgent chugfest here and there, but the tracks ultimately achieve what they're supposed to.
With Darker Lakes
, what we have here from Sarin is a truly engrossing and visceral post-metal album that is visual as much as it is audible. It uses nature’s raw elements as the backdrop to instill within the listener the same feelings of anxiety and isolation that inspired it in the first place. The album inadvertently offers the quintessential post-metal soundtrack to depict the vast, mountainous, and aquatic terrain of North America in all its chaotic, but ultimately beautiful, glory. Sarin has outdone themselves here and Darker Lakes
should serve as a significant step forward for the band and maybe even help to shed the “clone” label they were clumped into before.