SUMAC
The Healer


4.5
superb

Review

by bananatossing USER (15 Reviews)
June 25th, 2024 | 200 replies


Release Date: 06/21/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: It will not change the mind of Aaron Turner later career naysayers, but it boldly stands as a strong contender for one of his best works yet.

SUMAC is definitely an adquired taste. I personally view this band as the continuation of form and sound that Aaron Turner, the brain behind this project, was trying to chase with early Isis and subsequently with Old Man Gloom. Don’t get me wrong, though, as these are obviously totally different bands, but Turner has taken bits and sounds from both bands and placed them into a bleaker canvas of noise, improvisation, and ambience – as the album covers imply.

What was born out of Old Man Gloom’s NO and Ape of God albums, with long compositions of heavy sludge with stretched out moments of noise and ambience, had taken a much drastical approach starting with Love in Shadow, focusing on improv and amping up the noise elements. But where Love in Shadow stablished a good balance of musical moments and noise, the band’s fourth album May You Be Held leaned too heavily on the drone aspect. The trio’s fascination with spontaneity was also very well documented on three collaboration albums with minimalist japanese artist Keiji Haino.

After the mixed reception of May You Be Held, the band seemed to be going on a trajectory that the general fanbase of Turner’s work might just look over going forward. The band’s aptly titled fifth album, The Healer, imposes itself as both a course correction and statement that SUMAC is not going anywhere. This is, by far, their most ambitious and accomplished record as of yet. “World of Light” narrates a desolate world being light up with fire. It opens with (what I could describe as) a free jazz drum approach and takes the longest to take off; around the 6 min mark the band goes into a frenzy with Aaron growls and off-putting squeaks (which are more prevalent than usual here) leading the way. It then stops into a very long drone segment, but once it makes sure to test the listener’s patience to odious extremes, the music reveals itself around the 12 min mark and settles into an apocalyptic groove for the middle portion of the track. It then regresses into an improvised melodious guitar piece, only to explode into a distorted sludge ending.

So far, this describes SUMAC typically and doesn’t do very much to differentiate itself from the last couple of releases. However, “Yellow Dawn” kicks in with a progressive rock intro, almost resembling a tribal initiation ritual, only to grab the listener by the throat and once it does the remainder of the record never relinquishes. I think this is where The Healer succeeds, that it rewards the listener with a rock solid infusion of sludge and improv, to the point where it becomes intriguing to try and figure out how much of this is composed, structured and thought out and how much of it is sporadic. At this point it is also quite apparent the production is crystal clear, as not only the drums sound grand and three-dimensional within the mix but also producer Scott Evans made the perfect balance for the middle section in general, as he emphasizes Brian Cook bass riffs more heavily than usual, as perfectly exemplified within the middle to final portion of this same track.

“New Rites” stops the flow on its tracks and takes some time to start, though to a much lesser extent than “World of Light”. It settles for a nice heavy groove with an apparent motive of creating tension. Going back to what was mentioned before, the band amps up the heaviness and then rewards the listener as drummer Nick Yacyshyn fastens the pace on top of a high-pitched wavy riff. Its this release of tension that keeps the listener engaged, not to mention the explosive moments sound better than ever. Instead of ending it with a long drawn out noise segment, it just gets into a nice melodic riff and a slow jazzy drum fill at the end.

This culminates into the schizophrenic “The Stone’ Turn”, which takes all of the elements of all previous tracks and them melds into one. Ultimately, this ends up being one of SUMAC best songs yet, featuring an extensive melodic bluesy portion under Aaron’s low growls, devolving into a brief noise part and then rewarding the listener yet again with a very cool bass groove to close the album. The transitions are inmaculate in this particular track. Clocking at a whopping 76 minutes runtime, you don’t really feel it at all, which is an accomplishment in and on itself for this specific brand of sludge metal.

The Healer will not change the mind of Aaron Turner later career naysayers, but it boldly stands as a strong contender for one of his best works yet. It is rather impressive just how much his consistency over the years has paid off, and this unlocks a new path for the band to follow. “In shuttered cities, landscape pocked with bodies...” there is a world of light ahead, indeed.



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user ratings (106)
3.8
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
Frost15
June 25th 2024


3415 Comments


Nice! Review got me more hyped now... Will check this tomorrow.

bananatossing
June 25th 2024


2385 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Awesome! This is my favorite Sumac album.

FearThyEvil
June 25th 2024


18687 Comments


had no idea this was coming out. sweet!

XingKing
June 25th 2024


16181 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Couple goofy vocal moments aside, this is good shit

Butkuiss
June 25th 2024


7334 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I’d argue that most of the free improv moments on here are almost totally divorced from jazz, but that’s a personal nitpick. Decent record.

Space Jester
June 25th 2024


11138 Comments


Fuck yea awesome review. This is in the running for my favorite but I’ve loved every album they’ve put out so far including the Keiji Haino collabs

tectactoe
June 25th 2024


7563 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Incredible stuff here. Need a second listen to better assess, but potentially in the running for AOTY (i know it’s only june but w/e).

artificialbox
June 25th 2024


2064 Comments


alright I guess I'll give this a whirl. nice review, pos'd!

pennyroyal22
June 26th 2024


103 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This goes hard

Deez
June 26th 2024


10393 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

fkiing MASSIVE

bananatossing
June 26th 2024


2385 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks, fam! Yeah, this album is something else.

ShapeOfJizzToCum
June 26th 2024


899 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Hot shitting piss this rules.

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
June 26th 2024


3068 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Mmmmm yes pos, clearing space to listen to this at an obscene volume this weekend

Zakusz
June 26th 2024


1666 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm loving this even though there's so many things about it that drive me nuts. It's a test of patience, and that's okay once in awhile. Really intrigued to see if this becomes an obsession or a dust off once in awhile kind of album

ShadowOfTheCitadel
June 26th 2024


455 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

New Kayo Dot album goes hard.



I jest, I jest. This is easily Sumac's best of their new approach. The riffs are massive, the composition is nearly flawless, and it's oddly listenable considering the song lengths. In contention for metal AOTY so far.

Zakusz
June 26th 2024


1666 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Kayo was the first thing I thought of during the opener. For some reason I get a vibe of The Black Stone from the opener minus the subtle humor dripping off that song.

tectactoe
June 26th 2024


7563 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Kayo Dot + Khanate

Hawks
June 26th 2024


90597 Comments


Gotta hear this. Haven't kept up with this band in recent years.

bighubbabuddha
June 26th 2024


1036 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this was good but didn't move me

Pikazilla
June 26th 2024


30446 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

try losing weight for extra mobility



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