Review Summary: Aiming for perfection.
Californian post-metal. Three words when put together causes some
neuron activation in many people. Many famous post-metal bands like Neurosis
etc. originate from this region, standing in quite the center of the whole “movement”. Of course there is the underground, where many other excellent bands exist along the same line. Æquorea
is one of these hidden gems which are just waiting to be discovered.
Perhaps Nevada City’s Æquorea
isn’t the most productive band, however their self-released debut LP from 2014 must have been an interesting find back then. Tellurian
was an exciting post-doom release with hints of sludge elements and noteworthy creativity, so overall a very impressive work. But still, I think they couldn’t show their full potential yet. No, it had to wait. Eight years have passed and then came the band’s second craft, now under the wings of Transylvanian Recordings
, and it turned out to be a magnificent piece of art.
I think one of the first things that the listener can realize by listening to Dim
, is how well-balanced, and diverse sounding the album is: which is especially noteworthy, since the album contains “only” four lengthier songs. Individually, they are both fantastic and interesting, so let’s have a look at them separately.
The album’s longest composition, “Mirrors”
, starts with a hypnotic, slowly flowing Easternish and very soporific melody (very much like Al Cisneros’
groovy and peculiar style on any Om
record - even the dominant bass line stands as a resemblance). Soon after the second minute, the song takes a drastic turn, where the presented theme morphs into metal by use of enormous riffs and excellently executed black metal vocals (Black Anvil
vibes through the whole album). Reaching the middle of the song, the groove takes the lead and guides the listener to heavier depths. Interesting to notice how “Mirrors”
is built from several “layers”, but the opening groove remains an integral part of it, and the instrumental work around it sheperds this track into newer and heavier directions.
Fresher sounds greet the listener in the album’s second track, ”Demon Is Man”
. The song opens with a sweet melancholic melody, and slowly, and maybe unexpectedly, some gorgeous ambient-soaked shoegazing becomes part of the gently flowing melancholia. The result delivers (it did for me) the very same experience, what you can feel from the creation of Alcest
or God Is An Astronaut
: an ethereal, dreamesque atmosphere with lots of emotions inside. But Æquorea
did more than just present the re-interpretations of some dreamlike shoegaze, copying the acts mentioned above. Instead, they gently inserted their own ‘flavor’ into the song. As they steadily and wittingly build up a cathartic peak, the arriving pretty blackgazeish doom cuts deeply into the idyllic soundscape. There is some brilliance behind it, as this transition just doesn’t feel intrusive at all, contrariwise: it becomes part of it, and leads the flow of the song to a different, but eargasmic end.
The third track, ”Mara of the Holy Shadow”
, is probably the album’s most straight-forward composition. It’s crushing and heavy from start to end, but it comes with a very-well portioned airiness as well. This can be seen as typical post-metal traits, as these shorter or longer interludes may allow the listener to take a breath between the monumental and immersive post-doom riffages. This is where I’d like to drop my praise for how fantastic the synergy and the dynamism between every instrument and the vocals is. Each component feels vivid, and gets the opportunity to carry the flow for at least a while - not to mention the especially great studiowork which makes this possible.
The album’s closer, ”Talus”
feels more or less the continuation of the previous theme, but this song’s atmosphere is by far the grimmest of all. Slow and heavy, bits of dissonant chords and crushing riffs result in a fairly death-doom spirited assault, accompanied by the album’s most passionate vocal performance as well. But such bone-wrecking heaviness can be melted too, as suddenly an ambient, shoegaze section arrives, similarly to what was heard in ”Demon Is Man”
. By adding this module, they managed to insert a smooth transition into the song, where through a gradually heavier transformation, they can re-visit the previously introduced riffs and by the end of the experiment, the outcome reaches a satisfying catharsis, a perfect ending for the album.
Nothing but flawless. Æquorea
could spread their wings and has presented a truly amazing album. The band’s sophomore album is sometimes dynamic and aggressive, other times comfortably gentle and emotional, but all the way through stays as a soulful and expressive experience. Dim
might be a hidden gem, but it’s a spectacular post-doom release that you’ll never forget and worth exploring.