originally written by ZD Smith
By some chance it seems that I’ve become the go-to guy for drone-doom and sludge metal. And I suppose that’s ok; this sort of style, lying as it does on the edge of certain metal conventions, sometimes demands a seasoned ear, and many an overheated adjective has been wasted on some Sunn 0))) record, the writer unable to get over the basic fact that they are so: slow, oppressive, heavy, awesome, depressing, et cetera.
And this record, The Unquiet Sky, too, while not in fact particularly droney, and not as slow as Sunn 0))), can induce that sort of surface-level reaction in many listeners. So lets dispense with them: this record is really heavy, and really distorted. It’s slow, it’s noisy, and the vocals are pretty out there—in fact, they sound closer to some black metal bands I could mention than anything else. The problems arise once we move beyond those facts and discover that the songs themselves aren’t actually very interesting.
Is the production actually too good? Is the clarity and transparency (in addition to being clear, and transparent) too cold, too digital? It could be that what I miss, and what is in fact so crucial to the style is the harmonic richness and warmth that arise from a lovingly overdriven vacuum tube.
I cannot however, in good conscience, simply leave it at that. We cannot chalk this one up to a bad mix and move on, because if it is true that the sound did not immediately grab me at first listen, I persevered, as is my sacred duty. And this stuff is simply kind of boring. It all feels very thrown together; a dismal parade of un-riffs, and some yelling. Take for instance track four, “Los Nietos”—it starts, and 6:47 later it ends, and the next one begins. During that time they play a bunch of chords, there’s a bit of drumming, and our boy screams a bit. The chords are, in various permutations, the same five chords picked out of the same hat as every other song. The band plods along until they stop for a couple seconds, the feedback comes in, there’s a 3-hit fill, and then… Well, christ, I’m boring myself to tears here. You get the picture.
What does this music lack? Well, invention, I suppose. The band proceeds as if they had never actually heard sludge/doom before, but someone merely had related to them the basic outline and sent them off to the studio (though I know this not to be the case); if a comparison to fellow Chicago outfit Buried at Sea is appropriate—and I think it is—it’s plain to see that what’s missing from Indian, and what’s rather important, is simply the well-crafted riff. Primary to the production, the speed, or the instrumentation (including a couple unfortunate interludes for solo oscillator), or the extended and self-indulgent squalls of feedback, is the writing, and it doesn’t matter that everything else is precisely in place if the writing is not there—though it does make my disappointment greater.