The Houston post-black metal band Sleeping Ancient roll out a stunning degree of crushing musical severity on their debut album There Is No Truth But Death, out September 6 via Viridian Flame Records. The band powerfully veer between menacing tumult and mixed in slowly building, uneasy atmospheric portions, and each element lifts the work’s overall profile significantly. As the title might suggest but still lands with a fresh thud, this album seems to unravel a kind of “epicness” inherent in “death,” both in the sense of the brute physical concept and related ones covering emotional voids. That’s not some kind of glorification or subtle light, per se — it’s a musical acknowledgement of a looming tower lording over our time here.
The honesty sparks a renewal-driven thrill. The sometimes reckless-feeling abandon with which this band grab onto these musical (and emotional) concepts easily bleeds into the listener. There’s a darkly empowering surge that creeps out by the end of this record, which concludes with a passage that sounds in its heavy melody like a “death march.” Letting loose opens up these further pathways to go down, and this band manage the transition from their menacing brutality into minutes-long and sometimes track-long subtler portions alluringly. Every moment lands with a mountain of power that grows in stature as the album proceeds. Repeatedly, the music itself gets to shine with minutes in the spotlight with no vocals at all, which serves extremely effectively to drive in the towering scope of the band’s creation.
There’s no boredom here at all — the record proves quite far from it, really. The band seem to musically unwrap chaos to get to an almost ecstatic thrill running both directions — “up” in the sense of a kind of growing, frenzied power, and “down” in the sense of the atmospheric and slower portions, which feel like slowly but surely driving a rusty stake through the heart.
This music will captivate a taste for extremity and then some. Through the whole creation, there’s a heavy metal sense of relentlessness, and no matter if they’re indulging in the heaviness or the haze, the band really just don’t let up with their precisely executed but still powerful passion.
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