Friday, March 19, 2010

APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE "LAST SUNRISE" (Profound Lore)

Very interesting take on doom metal. About two songs in i was asking myself why Profound Lore would sign these guys and halfway through the record i knew-it's an incredibly different, almost minimalist approach. Seemingly minimalist in definition, doom metal as a genre is actually characterized by a bloated sort of maximalism; i.e. make it as heavy and slow as it can possibly be, which much of the time results in really bland, boring one chord lurchathons that go absolutely fucking nowhere and sometimes take two discs to get you there. Not so with Apostle of Solitude. It's lean, trimmed down doom metal in every regard, and despite a 61 minute runtime the record rarely lags or seems forced.
Perhaps the biggest difference between these guys and the majority of doomers is the overall sound, especially with regard to the guitars. If this were Electric Wizard you'd expect a totally blown out ultra fat swath of harsh fuzz to assault your eardrums, as brutal in the high frequencies as it is in the lows, obviously created by a wealth of boutique effects pedals. Apostle of Solitude take a much more purist approach, approximating a tone that sounds eerily close to "just plug this fucker in and rip shit up." If pedals are being used it's a wah and a Rat and nothing else, and it's a very refreshing sound. Upon first blast that trebly, feedback laden squelch seems displaced but as "Last Sunrise" gallops along it becomes more distinctive and welcome, as you can actually hear the phrasing of notes in the solos and the scrape of fingers and hands across strings (i've always liked that unrepaired, organic feel in guitar playing, and many bands are afraid to leave those sounds audible for fear of being accused of sloppiness.) It makes you feel like you're in the practice space with these guys, just hanging out and watching them tear through a rehearsal, maybe recording a demo tape.
And there is the only real drawback to the lack of expansiveness in Apostle of Solitude's sound. It's hard, even for me, to get past the idea that doom metal need be a behemoth. AOS are so stripped down that it seems like they really ARE recording a demo, rather than a full length effort. It sounds fine, yes, totally crisp and clear, but fuck, even Sabbath had some meat on the bone. It's a difficult reconciliation, not one that sinks the album, but rather one that is hard to cram into the dominant mindset of the genre window. Sabbath are referenced and drawn from heavily throughout but never in a direct ripoff sort of way, same as the outstanding vocals reference Boris at their most melancholy and frustrated. I feel i have to expound a bit further and say that the vocals are really amazing on this album-this guy can actually sing and he's got a raw, indie style voice that owes more to Greg Dulli in tone than Ozzy but manages to feel dangerous and defiant at the same time. It's totally left-field and unexpected for the genre they're working in. I am rarely impressed with vocal performances; it usually takes some kind of extreme wailing or windy frenzied screaming to really move me so this was a most welcome astonishment.
I won't say that "Last Sunrise" is a flawless or superlative album because it isn't. There are too many amateurish, drunken guitar solos (like Skynrd on 'ludes or Quiet Riot at a 1982 bar show) and some of the song structures are too horribly derivative and classic rock infused to reach a level of proper elevation (just listen to the cheesy Dire Straits inspired clean riffing on "Letting Go of the Wheel" or the simplistic two-chord d-beat of "Other Voices") but it's a solid, individualistic effort fully worthy of being on Profound Lore, a label that somehow meshes metal recidivism with metal innovation seamlessly.
This version of "Last Sunrise" includes three bonus tracks, all covers. One is a cover of the Obsessed which brings nothing new to the table and need not have been recorded. The second is a Born Against track that i have little thought on,having no familiarity with either the original song or Born Against in general (my apologies to banal punk rock fanatics everywhere.) The third is a Misfits cover and absolutely fucking destroys; it's very nearly the best track on the record and if these guys ever decided to become a Danzig cover band i would fully endorse their endeavour. An intriguing album for adventurous doom listeners.

1 comment:

Corey said...

I don't think we'll be playing Minnesota anytime soon but we'll be up in Chicago on Sat.July 24th. You should make a road trip and see if you can get more into AoS with a live show.lol

Either way thanks for the brutal honesty in the review.