Review Summary: "Like hitting the road, except upwards with no rear view mirror.“
SÂVER are on to something here, they really are. The Oslo trio’s debut album contains some of the most cathartic, heavy and experimentally rewarding ideas of 2019. If there’s one thing They Came with Sunlight
does extremely well, it’s making you feel unwelcome in its hopeless and dejected soundscape. “Distant Path”’s introduction is met with unease; an abandoned bassline being strong-armed by droning electronic static and a haunting synth melody, building to the apex of its foreboding mood before slamming into a lumbering and gargantuan sludge riff. The band knows how to grab your immediate attention, and it utilizes this strength frequently during its 6 tracks. The first two minutes of “Distant Path” makes your initial listen a more attentive one; its aberrant songwriting makes things all the more intriguing, and the kick-in is excellent as well. On the exterior, They Came with Sunlight
is a conventional doom metal record with all the sludge-y trimmings attached, however there’s subtle undertones being drawn from various sub-genres: lashings of hardcore, metalcore and post-metal being the most apparent – resulting in a far more memorable record because of its outward thinking. That said, ambience plays an intrinsic role here and solidifies the densely consistent tone throughout. The introductory build-up section to “Altered Light” or the exclusive instrumental track “Influx” really sets the mood before hitting you with odd rhythms and rudimentary note sequences. It’s all familiar grounds for fans of this kind of music, but the vivid instrumental world-building and excellent handling of doom’s established frameworks result in a great listening experience that thinks outside of the box. The Adam Jones tinged guitar solos are another unwonted mesh with doom’s archetype, but it’s a trait that adds flourishes of colour and dynamic to the songs at hand – shaking off any of the fatigues that are about to set in.
Unfortunately, with all that SÂVER gets right, they fall victim to not quitting while they’re ahead. Some of the shortcomings aren’t necessarily the band’s fault as such; doom as a genre is built upon long-winded runtimes, so you have to be a bloody special band to make that time feel warranted. Bar maybe “Distant Path” for having the most engaging songwriting (a welcoming pat on the back for its 11 minutes zipping past in the blink of an eye), every track thereafter has a sagging part, through overuse of an interesting riff, stretched repetition, or the vocals failing to step up to the plate when they’re needed the most. Vocals are probably the biggest detriment to the album, and it’s not really down to the fact they’re bad, more that they lack variety. More often than not the airy shrill that transitions the next booming section works fantastically, but I occasionally sat there wishing they’d approached things a little more adventurously. It’s not asking a lot either, as evidence shows a change-up is more than possible. “Dissolve to Ashes” is the only track that goes at the vocals from a different angle – save the hardcore punk styled section in “I, Vanish” – showcasing a really solid performance of fragile cleans that lift the track up into the clouds before having it crash back down to earth like a meteorite when the harsh vocals come back in again. It’s a special moment in the album that isn’t done again, and in a way that makes it a more treasured highlight, but this kind of outward thinking would have dramatically helped the songs along. Of course, while these problems are fundamental, they don’t completely trash what They Came with Sunlight
does so well. The hypnotic basslines, obscure ambience, and well-executed crescendos more than overshadow the album’s inherent niggles, and is definitely one of the most enjoyable doom records of the year, thus far.
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A
ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE: https://shop.season-of-mist.com/saver-they-came-with-sunlight-cd