What One Becomes

Written by: MIN on 25/02/2017 19:48:12

Aaron Turner is without a doubt one of the most prominent figures in modern metal. Having not only founded the independent label Hydra Head Records (which specialises in forward-thinking and experimental metal music), he has also co-created such impressive bands as Isis, Old Man Gloom, and now his newest outfit, SUMAC. Besides Turner, the trio consists of Baptists-drummer Nick Yacyshyn and the bassist from Russian Circles, Brian Cook. But rest assured: SUMAC is in no way just a side-project. Once you’ve let the band’s sophomore record, “What One Becomes”, crawl under your skin, you, too, will see all too clearly that this is a beast of its own entirely.

First and foremost, let it be said that “What One Becomes” is a lesson in patience. As is the case with so many other bands that have explored the depths of post-metal, sludge and experimental music in general, SUMAC’s newest outing is a colossal mammoth that requires more than just a few sit-throughs to fully appreciate. The album is an excellent quiet/loud mix between forceful clashes and beautifully enthralling passages and soundscapes, successfully executed by virtue of the amazing musicianship underlying. Most of the time you’re either hypnotized by the interesting math-progressions in the album’s slower sections or you’re overwhelmed by the enormous overflow of energy that hits you harder than a tidal wave every time the three musicians decide to collide. Not anyone could have pulled off what these guys do, and it’s marvellous to hear how synchronic their interplay is, not to mention how much power they’re able to load into the music. Whether a song is lead by a throttling bass-line, melodic guitars or spacious drumming, the remaining members know when to kick in and complement their partners — almost like they’re taking part in a jam session between jazz musicians, only about ten tons heavier.

The album consists of only five songs, but not to worry — with durations of 9+ minutes, the record still manages to clock in at 58 minutes. Although every piece of music has the same overall sound and feeling, they’re still quite different. The album-opener, “Image of Control”, quickly cements what kind of record we’re dealing with, as it features ferocious atonal playing, cathartic walls of sound and deep, distant growls. “What One Becomes” quickly feels like the embodiment of pain and sorrow, painting a picture of a bellowing beast alone in a cave, wounded and vulnerable. But there’s also beauty in the darkness: the melodic first half of “Clutch of Oblivion” ironically feels like a release after the clutching ending of “Rigid Man”, but before you know it, Yacyshyn’s impeccable drumming bulks right in the door and tears the wound wide open, letting the real battering of bass and guitar begin. After a few minutes, the rain slips in through the cracks of the cave as a droning melody lulls you back to sleep, and you suddenly forget the beating you just took. That’s the beauty of “What One Becomes”: one moment you’re being relentlessly thrust through the room; the next you’re being nurtured back to life.

“Blackout” is, with its 17-minute duration which spans over several different genres and phases, probably the record’s most striking chameleon. From a slow, melodic pace and into a heavier, more crushing part, the song suddenly transcends into a combination of jarring stoner riffs and droning psychedelic grooves just before it fazes out and becomes nothing more than a distant noise, thus concluding the epic piece. It’s a good example of the many different faces that the trio’s music shows throughout an LP, and especially on “What One Becomes” it becomes apparent just why the band chose to call itself SUMAC. On the surface, a sumac exhibits beauty and frailty, but once it latches unto you, the sumac reveals its strength through its poison and perseverance. SUMAC, like its namesake, will probably stick with you for a long time once you’ve let it in, mercilessly and forcefully, perfectly balanced between brute and delicacy.


Download: Rigid Man, Blackout, Will to Reach
For the fans of: Old Man Gloom, Isis, Pelican, Cult of Luna, Neurosis
Listen: Facebook

Release date 10.06.2016
Thrill Jockey

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