Review Summary: Sunloving Siberian Sludge
It is a truism that most attempts at sludge metal end up sounding like ISIS wannabes. And in a sense, Sunhurt doesn’t fall too far outside of that. There are a few melodies here that sound like they could be ripped straight out of Oceanic or Panopticon.
But Sunhurt doesn’t really sound like ISIS. They have this strangely open but murky production style that is initially striking for sounding homemade. This sound ensures that this album isn’t immediately accessible, which alleviated some early misgivings I had.
The misgivings centered around the tag “post-metal” and the description “Sun-Loving” that the band gave themselves. I was expecting a mostly pretty sometimes metal display of post-rock cliches in the style of The Ocean. Despite my expectations, Remainder ended up being a very sludgy album.
The cleaner sections on display here are not the cliched, arpeggiated stadium rock that most metal bands resort to in an attempt to broaden their sound. Instead, these sections sound remarkably sludgy, almost guttural. In sections, it sounds positively bluesy, which was an extremely pleasant surprise. This unorthodox brand of post-metal serves the album a great deal of good, especially as far as uniqueness goes, to the point that I almost find it unfortunate that these cleaner sections don’t go on longer.
That’s not to say that these bluesy dirges are perfect: the band can oftentimes find it difficult to transition to them. Case in point, the transition in opener “Decomposed Time” from Boris style Doom feels awkward at best. To their credit, their transition from the clean section back into sludge metal works a lot better, and Hornet’s Eye manages to transition very naturally back and forth, so this isn’t a recurring problem by any means.
That I find it almost unfortunate that the band doesn’t stay clean longer is more of a credit to how good Remainder is when Sunhurt hits a more traditional sludge metal style. As I’ve alluded to before, Sunhurt strikes a balance between bringing something new to the table and keeping themselves true to their influences. Boris and ISIS influences can be heard at various points; the middle of “Abomination of Herd” sounds like it was taken out of Feedbacker, the first part of Dusk sounds like a heavier, more dissonant, but still close, relative of ISIS (as do certain parts of Wallowing). But in the bands violent, more modern attacks of dissonant riffing (see the last part of Wallowing) mixed in with an ability to hit doom metal heaviness, they find their own voice.
As someone who has always liked the idea of sludge metal, the voice that Sunhurt finds is exactly what I have always wanted sludge metal to be: the guitars are heavy, murky, the bass bleeds into the drums so that the whole low end sounds like rhythmic mud, and despite this it really does manage to sound beautiful. That “Sun-Loving” is an apt description of the album is a huge credit to Sunhurt, who manage to pull off this sound not despite, but because of their heavy, ear-splitting brand of sludge. It may take a second listen to really fall in love with this album, but trust me it’s worth it.