Sunday, November 24, 2013

...preparing for the Apocalypse: SEA OF BONES – ‘The Earth Wants Us Dead’

Few bands manage to match their chosen moniker with the music they play with such precision and accuracy as Connecticut three-piece Sea of Bones - a band whose name more than adequately describes the desolate, laid-to-waste atmospherics that is as suggestive of a great pestilence as it is of evoking visions of the remnants of a centuries old hecatomb. The band has also managed to release an album that rivals the malignant, misanthropic sludge/doom of Fister’s ‘Gemini’, an album that until this point was unmatched in terms of downtuned, acerbic sludgery in 2013. At six tracks and a runtime of over ninety minutes Sea of Bones’ ‘The Earth Wants Us Dead’ is a harrowing journey that tests the listener’s propensity for enduring prolonged exposure to seismic, gut-wrenching riffs, tortured vocals, and atmospheric blight on a grand scale.

The potent album opener “The Stone the Slave and the Architect” recalls the earth-quaking rumble found on Conan’s ‘Monnos’, and it relentlessly heaves and struggles under its own weight for nearly nine minutes. While ‘The Earth Wants Us Dead’ is, at its basest level, an exercise in monolithic, slow-motion drudgery, most of the tunes are embellished with enough subtle tempo changes and ambient textures to keep the album moving, albeit it at a glacial pace. “Failure of Light” is the best example of how the band deftly manages to include spacier moments into their uncompromising aural battery, particularly with the song’s intro. Despite the trippy calm, it doesn’t take long for “Failure of Light” to devolve into another writhing, unsettled beast of a track. Following in a similar vein to “Failure of Light” is the album standout “The Bridge”. Distant drums, calm, undulating noise, and clean guitar slowly build into what is one of the finest tracks on the album. After a four minute smolder, “The Bridge” launches into a mid-paced chug that is reminiscent of Neurosis’ “Through Silver in Blood”. If ‘The Earth Wants Us Dead’ gets released as a CD it’s going to be a two disc set, which leads to the closing title-track—an album in itself due to its forty minute runtime. As the entirety of ‘The Earth Wants Us Dead’ progresses so does the inclusion of ambient noise, a trend that peaks and ultimately conquers with the eponymous album closer—an instrumental tune wrought with a tension that falls somewhere between serenity and escalating dread.  

Sea of Bones have released one of the ugliest sludge/doom albums of the year, not an easy feat considering some of the band’s competition from the likes of both Fister and In the Company of Serpents. Despite the album’s ugliness there are still fleeting moments of calm, though they are inevitably engulfed by heaving waves of distortion. If it wasn’t for the group’s deft handling of ethereal sounds and ambient textures, ‘The Earth Wants Us Dead’ could run the risk of falling prey to gratuitous, mind-numbing repetition. Instead, the band has crafted a subtly dynamic album that pays off in the long run. Fans of Neurosis, Conan, Yob, and even Gravecode Nebula should appreciate Sea of Bones’ brand of atmospheric sludge.

Words: Steve Miller

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