Review Summary: honestly, ylem sounds like a really tasty fruit
put Sunless on the map as an up-and-coming progressive death metal band with a hefty dose of dissonance paired with unorthodox song structuring. A band boasting virtuosic instrumental prowess along with a solid debut album isn’t uncommon nowadays, but rarely do they leave a footprint this big right out of the gate. The trio obviously took some notes from Gorguts, but nevertheless, had an immense amount of promise and potential. A lineup change halfway through the writing cycle and four years in between releases didn’t hinder the process of forming their best work yet.
wastes no time whatsoever and ferociously kicks the door open with ‘Spiraling into the Unfathomable’. The urgency in the music is immediately felt and the listener is hurtled with irregular guitar riffs and feverishly wicked time signatures of the most delicious kind. Sunless has never been outright psychedelic per se but their hypnotic brand of technicality can definitely leave one feeling a bit perplexed trying to keep up with the unforeseen directions the songs go at prima facie. On this album, the band is able to retain their dangerous edge and jigsaw puzzle-like assortment of riffs whilst being surprisingly accessible. The songs themselves have a lot to offer and are quite dense, but Sunless manages to reach a cathartic in-between of unpredictable structuring and approachable ear-worms. The sound resolution is taken up a considerable notch, Sunless now sounding ever more dynamic and colorful, doing their aesthetic wonders. The mixing and mastering on Ylem
is once again handled by Colin Marston, a production savant that needs no introduction. Urraca
undoubtedly sounded great but the drums and bass in particular sound a lot more pristine and pronounced on Ylem
and in turn makes their music sound more gripping and alluring.
Although already prominent in their previous work, Sunless is now even better at articulating nuance in their mechanical proficiency of the compositions, while still effectively sounding grounded and human. There is a level of restraint displayed in their whole body of work, which is a rare quality to have in this ilk of death metal. Now, don’t get me wrong, Sunless is inherently aggressive and somewhat experimental in their approach to death metal, but they never overextend themselves nor do they ever get close to being over-indulgent. Ylem
comes across as more concise in execution and the ideas feel more fleshed out and realized. ‘Ascended Forms’ and ‘The Unraveling of Arcane Past’ in particular remind me of Gorguts’, From Wisdom to Hate
. And yes, while continually comparing Sunless to their obvious influences can be reductionist to the identity they’ve capitalized on here— I only intend to make this correlation out of the highest level of flattery I can elaborate. ‘Forgotten (Remnants of Life)’ is a certified banger and is an excellent encapsulation of what the band excels at. While the track ‘Atramentous’, is the album's most varied, offering hooks and complex tempos aplenty. ‘Ascended Forms’ is a personal highlight and has some of the catchiest riffs on the entire album. Be it the intro riff or the recurring riff in the last minute of the song, it all hits incredibly hard and is sure to get the fists pumping and the heads nodding.
Sunless’ rhythm section is to die for and their new drummer, Taylor Hamel, is a great addition to this. He fills in the band’s previous percussionist’s shoes quite well, while slightly giving a more free-form take on the work. He also incorporates additional groove into the songs giving them a bouncy feeling at times. Urraca
didn’t lack direction whatsoever but in comparison to these songs there is more focus and again, urgency present. The album moves along with great intent where every idea and song offers something significant and worthwhile to the listener. The pacing is one of the strongest aspects of Ylem
and at a perfect thirty-nine minutes the album doesn’t overstay its welcome and has excellent replay value. In fact, the songs become even more captivating with successive hearings as they only improve once everything that is on display is fully digested. It’s not a real criticism per se, but the band plays it kind of safe when it comes to expanding on new ground and it would have been nice for a little more adventurous liberties to be taken with the songs here and there. It’s more of the same, but I don’t say this disingenuously— as this is what I wanted more of. But I digress, the album could be Urraca
2.0 (it’s not) and I’d still be plenty elated.
, the second part in a proposed trilogy of albums, has built upon and tightened up everything that was established with their previous effort. Sunless’ new album is cohesive and superbly crafted, the band radiating confidence in their intentions. This group has all the right things going for them and it's now been cemented Urraca
was no fluke, making Sunless the real deal. The third part in their trilogy will undoubtedly be impressive and I know it will somehow further improve on everything displayed on Ylem
. If you weren’t already on the hype-train, now is the time.