Space-themed metal is nothing new, but as I found, there are still a lot of new ways to explore it.
The number of super talented instrumental bands across all metal genres is incomprehensible, yet maybe only a handful ever really stay in the spotlight for more than a week at a time. Albums drop, people like them, then they get forgotten amongst the piles of other great metal that comes out daily. I like instrumental music as much as any metalhead with prog roots, but please, I beg of you, do something (anything at all) to add a memorable thematic layer.
Vinnum Sabbathi, a four piece stoner doom band from Mexico, are doing just that on their first LP, Gravity Works. They take the Monolord-style of doom, dial the aggressiveness back just a little, and splice in recordings regarding gravity and space exploration.
“Imagine being weightless[…] swinging around the world once every ninety minutes. 17,500 miles per hour. 5 miles a second.”¹
While we might not know what weightlessness feels like physically, the droning guitar riffs and steady drum beat layered over the mechanical recording frees your mind to wander and float above its normal grounded existence, but not for long. Eventually, the fuel runs out and the state of suspension is revoked by a rapid descent brought on by one of the most aggressive riffs on the album. “Weightlessness” might be my favorite track, as it acts as a thesis statement for what is to come, all compacted in a nice five-minute package. The body of the work is made of longer songs that have some long droning rhythms breaking up the frantic fuzzy riffs, so I hope you have some patience and willingness to explore the great expanse.
“It is a vast emptiness, where all the laws of nature as we know them here on earth dissolve into a massive contradiction. Where everything that goes up does not come down. Where the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line². Where there is no beginning and no end .”
The second song speaks of bravery. The narrator describes the chaotic world outside of our atmosphere, a place where life is not welcome. The constants we take for granted are stripped away and the facts we have learned to love and rely on abandon us. Yet, a brave few are willing to test human ingenuity to become aliens in a foreign space. Just as the narrator finishes describing the effects of g-forces, a heavy riff sits on your chest and restricts your breathing. Vinnum Sabbathi uses the samples to guide the intensity and mood of each piece of the track.
The clip used in “Gravity Waves” is a little lower in the mix so it’s hard to make out entirely what is being said. With little context, it almost sounds like a systems check in a sci-fi space exploration film where something goes horrifically wrong (or transcendently right).
“Never before in human history had so many people in so many different places been so completely informed about a news event. Now the space program was accomplishing what war had always done before.”
The fourth song is all about moon landing hype. I can’t imagine living in a world so captivated by a positive force (even if the reason behind doing it was a little cold-war-y). Over 530 million people worldwide tuned in to watch the Apollo 11 mission, which made it the most-watched program to-date. The eerie track cheers us on as we vicariously watch launch preparation news clips. The bass-led riff inspires as much nervous trepidation as it does excitement. “So, come with us. We are going to the moon.”
“The Probe B”³ is focused on black holes and the collapse of the universe. It’s a little more ominous of a track until it speeds up at the halfway point to reveal one of the most addictive grooves on the album. It’s an energy-filled explosion that leaves us with:
“But then that will be it, it will be the collapse of the universe.”
In less than 45 minutes, you too can know what it feels like to be weightless. Head over to their Bandcamp page and buy this sucker for any price you’d like. Also give their FB page a like and ask them if there are any toilets in space.
¹ The speed listed here is the required orbital velocity for a low earth orbit at about 200 km (the ISS has an apogee of about 400 km). Since the gravitational pull of the earth is still pretty strong here, the weightlessness that astronauts feel is not due to a lack of gravity, but because they are essentially in a continuous free fall.
²A straight line is only the shortest distance between two points in euclidian geometry (on a two-dimensional plane). However, when dealing with massive distances in space (or even just normal aviation), following the curvature of spacetime becomes the shortest path. Because the gravity of large bodies in space causes disturbances in spacetime, it gets funky really fast. General relativity is your friend here.
³The track name refers to a satellite that was launched in 2004 to test a few hypotheses of general relativity. The satellite was supposed to detect how much the presence of the earth warped spacetime, including how much the earth’s rotation affected it. In 2011, the data and resulting research confirmed Einstein’s predictions.