Review: Sunless – Urraca

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Looking at some of the conversations held here in the comments and on the Facebook page, some of our community have expressed “genre fatigue” towards dissonant death metal, remarking that the market is too bloated and that bands are becoming homogenized. It’s easy to understand why; the subgenre has had significantly less time to germinate than things like thrash or black metal, and yet there’s been an explosion of such bands in the past couple years. As such, these bands have only a handful of progenitors from which to draw influence, thus leading to some similarities between them in terms of sound.

On top of that, it’s a very dense style of music, one that doesn’t generally make for easy listening. Even the other forms of extreme metal have more accessible bands: death metal has groups like Children of Bodom who are ostensibly a pop group with distorted guitars; black metal has Dissection, whose grasp of melody was enough to lure my younger self to delve further into the genre; and even sludge has early Mastodon. Dissonant death has no such easy access point, intentionally built on abstruse songwriting and convoluted structure. So what is one more of these bands? Unless you find the style palatable, why bother sifting through all of these new bands when you have the tried-and-true classics to fall back on? Why should you care about Sunless? Well, there’s a short version and a long version of the answer to that question, and you’re getting the long version first.

As I see it, the current state of the genre sees bands splitting into one of two camps: those whose primary influence is Gorguts, examining dissonance in its harshest forms, and those who follow Ulcerate, weaving uncomfortable, alien melodies into their bleak soundscapes. Sunless fall squarely in the former camp, Urraca most closely resembling Gorguts’ post-reunion output. However, being a three-piece, the band has to work that much harder for their music to take full effect. As such, the guitar lines consistently take the form of a toxic haze, the bass serving as a guide through the miasma while the vocals and drums thunder ominously from all directions. Despite the band’s stripped-down lineup, and even with minimal layering, it never sounds thin. It can be almost suffocatingly dense at times, particularly during a longer chord when the motion of the bass and drums slow or become obfuscated by the wall of noise. Riffs in the more traditional sense might occasionally show up, but they’re twisted and disappear quickly, mere shapes in the fog.

Though Sunless pull influence from Gorguts, there are some significant differences between the two. For one, Sunless’ songs are generally much shorter than Gorguts’, with only three of nine clocking in over five minutes long. The songs feel more focused and directed that way, which makes sense given the subject matter. Coloured Sands and Pleiades’ Dust were written about knowledge, making them the perfect avenue for long, ponderous songs for deep exploration. Urraca, on the other hand, is largely centered on the earth itself. These are the sounds of the violent cosmic origins of the planet and the inevitable end it will face. It’s raw and primal; to use what might be a more juvenile analogy, it could easily be set to the same images used in Fantasia at the beginning of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.”

sunless_Promo

On top of that, the production has received the Midas touch of Colin Marston. It feels as though the tones were molded from the same clay as the music itself; gritty, but not too muddy. The instruments have enough space to work around each other, as is appropriate for their small roster, and everything is mixed evenly. That oftentimes means the bass is roaring at the forefront due it its more pointed nature, but that’s how it should be. The throat-rending vocals have been perfectly sculpted as well; they occupy the same mid range as the guitar, but aren’t overpowering.

Skronk/dissonant/weird/avant-garde death/whatever other inadequate label you want to apply to this music has certainly seen a boom recently, but I don’t believe it’s stagnating. Perhaps I’m biased in favor of it, but I see new ideas come with each band that emerges from the cloying black, each with their own unique take on the genre. Even among those, even as one of the newest, Sunless are one of the best bands to come into the scene, and Urraca is a monstrous debut. They feel new and fresh in spite of their obvious influences, which is more than can be said for many other bands out there.

So why should you care about Sunless? Because they fucking crush the competition.

5/5 Commodes of Creation’s Flame

NEW_TOILETSCALE_5_of_5

Urraca is out this Friday, February 24th, and you can purchase it right here. If you can’t wait that long, you can stream it in full at Metal Injection. Friday also marks the start of their tour with Grogus; check Sunless’ Facebook for dates and let them know how deep your love for the skronk goes.

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  • HessianHunter

    BACKED HARD

    • Stockhausen

      You would.

  • Señor Jefe El Rosa

    That was a stellar review, Shining Spear. Not my normal style but the way you describe the bass having a crucial role and often at the forefront of their sound has me intrigued.

    • HessianHunter

      The bassist of this band is actually the primary composer.

      • Señor Jefe El Rosa

        Now that is a fact that is stacked!

        (Yeah, that was horrible)

  • Rain Poncho W.

    Spear! Fantastic review. The demo ripped, so I’ve been looking forward to this for a while.

  • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

    Great review, Shiny Spearow. I’ll be lining this up for sure.
    Although I find the differences between most dissonant metal records is about as big as Richter thinks the differences between modern Norsecore bands are.
    Not tired by the genre, just by the amount of it – which is why every new great band/record is even more exciting than usually.

    • Wait fuckn what?

      • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

        “I have heard every riff on this album a thousand times, usually in more interesting songs.”
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .
        Well, not really, but you get the point – freakbag.

        • Black Smallbeard
        • Yeah you rite but as Spear points out its a pretty young genre so the we shouldn’t feel quite so discouraged yet by a lack of innovation.

          Also, eat my butt.

          • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

            I have been waiting for those words for an a eternity.

          • Sir Ukkometso The Based

            I demand you film the butt eating. I wants to see dat!

          • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

            You can watch, but you’ll have to pay extra.

          • Sir Ukkometso The Based

            You fuckin’ kulak!

          • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

            It’s a material world, and I’m a material girl.

          • Rain Poncho W.

            Hey, we don’t welcome that kind of language here! I think. Maybe. What’s a kulak?

          • Sir Ukkometso The Based

            Someone who belongs in a gulag.

          • Joaquin Stick

            It’s a small ship from the Civil War era.

          • Rain Poncho W.
  • Dear Spear,
    I love this review. Fuckn nailed it. And Sunless is pretty good too.
    -Not GL

  • Black Smallbeard

    theres a lot of colors here . . . ill check it out

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Just the one color, really.

      • Black Smallbeard

        I hear more tech here than I do dissonant. Perhaps that’s why spear likes this so much

        • Señor Jefe El Rosa

          *shrugs*

  • Rain Poncho W.

    I think part of what makes this album really stand out is that, at least on first listen, the songs actually sound distinct. “Born of Clay” just stampedes out of the gate and sounds far more aggressive and energetic than the track before it.

  • Part of my beef with Gorguts is that songs started to get too long for my taste on the last two albums. By the sounds of this review, Sunless might potentially be good for me and my limited attention span.

  • AMG reviewed this today too. Just gonna be one of those days I guess.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/33a66f8aef4d30fb9f2312c6d860dffb1ec81707f8a5112fd2d36c73883c9919.gif

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Stop reading other blogs. We are your home now.

      • Or just read other blogs in the closet like the rest of us.

        • Señor Jefe El Rosa

          Stand up and be counted for what you are about to receive Richter.

          • Um…

            …is it a free copy of Sunless?

          • Señor Jefe El Rosa

            No 🙁

          • Rain Poncho W.

            He’s quoting that rock band he’s always yammering on about at you.

          • Señor Jefe El Rosa

            Always?

          • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

            All-ways.

          • Clutch?

          • Rain Poncho W.

            Nannerwar

          • Señor Jefe El Rosa

            TOO BAD THAT’S AN AC/DC QUOTE!! DON’T YOU FEEL DUMB?!

          • Rain Poncho W.

            …a little. More hurt, though.

          • Sir Ukkometso The Based

            You should feel dumb for knowing an ac/dc quote.

          • Señor Jefe El Rosa

            Well I don’t

          • Retaining exactly 0 AC/DC quotes in my head leaves more room for Buffy the Vampire Slayer trivia.

          • I didn’t know that AC/DC quote and I’m shocked that it’s not somehow an innuendo.

            “I’ve got big balls
            I’ve got big balls
            And they’re such big balls
            Dirty big balls
            And he’s got big balls,
            And she’s got big balls,
            But we’ve got the biggest balls of them all!”

          • Hans Moleman

            Eh, “what you are about to receive” could be dirty I guess. They (used to?) fire cannons when playing this, so at least they got hella phallic there.

  • Stockhausen

    Great review for a kiiiiiiiller album. I haven’t gotten through it as many times as I’d like, but I’m going to fix that over the next couple days. I played with these guys in Minnesota and they absolutely crush everything they do.

  • Spear I am going to join the rest and declare: that was one amazing review. You have inspired a detective to check out their material

  • Waynecro

    Thanks for the excellent review! This album is definitely high on my must-listen-to list.