Getting back to basics often is what artists do after a long period of experimentation or doing things outside of their comfort zone. It’s a way of getting back to a primal urge and building off the things that made them creators in the first place. It’s way to go back to square one with plenty of knowledge in your back pocket.
Aaron Turner was a part of one of the most influential bands of the past decade with his work in ISIS (the band, not the terrorist group, you dummies). Their sound was revered, and a whole host of disciple groups popped up in their wake to carry that style forward. But when the band members went their separate ways in 2010, Turner didn’t exactly sit around. He got Old Man Gloom off the ground again and most recently sent Internet folks and writers in a tirade of spite over their “Ape of God” releases. He also continued working with wife Faith Coloccia in Mamiffer, and even teamed up with those crazy Fins in Circle for the supremely awesome and heavily under-appreciated Split Cranium. But now, he’s back with a brand new band Sumac that does seem to return to Turner’s basics and puts him on a similar, albeit grislier, path as ISIS. Profound Lore is releasing their debut album “The Deal,” but if someone had tricked you into thinking Hydra Head had risen from the grave and delivered this mammoth into the world, you easily could be swayed by the sound and weight of this thing. Hell, even the cover art looks like something out of, like, 2002. It’s great, and the music is huge sounding.
Turner isn’t alone on this album, as he’s joined by drummer Nick Yacyshyn (also of hardcore-laced maulers Baptists) and session bassist Brian Cook (Russian Circles, These Arms Are Snakes, Botch) added his work to the project. Most of the material here sounds pretty free form, like the guys went in with a basic skeleton of the songs and just let the lava flow and settle where it may. That gives the album a sense of freedom and organic strength, as they let these cuts develop, breathe, corrode, and burn, and if you fail to get out of the way in time, that’s your fault.
“Spectral Gold” gets the ball rolling in a calculated manner, as the brief instrumental cut opens with a tribal feel, noise spitting outward, volatile simmering you anticipate boiling over, and all of that fading into time. “Thorn in the Lion’s Paw” drops the weight immediately, with slow chugging set to devastate and Turner’s trademark monstrous growl unfurling and leading the way. Melody surges, with the section feeling airy and atmospheric, while tension builds and devours any sense of calm. The riffs shuffle and maul, the drums are beaten to a pulp, and a keyboard haze joins up and creates a wall of interference that is thick and impenetrable. “Hollow King” is a 12:21 beast, with the tempo slowly ramping up, the song beginning to crush heavily, and the vocals ripping out and devastating. There’s a great deal of mashing that could crush your digits, and that slips into muddy horror, sprawling drumming, and a long section of playing that sounds loose, unplanned, and burning off as much energy as they can muster. That leads back into the main body of the song, some spectacular riffs, trance-inducing assaults, and a back end that thrashes over and over, leaving you howling and pleading for mercy.
“Blight’s End Angel” lets guitars rise up and ring out, like a disturbing wake-up call, and from there all the elements simmer and soak in their seasoning before the track bursts with a fury. The growls are animalistic, while the tempo chugs heartily and a massive, clubbing assault on your senses plays out. Noise bends hard, the track keeps building strength and intensity, and everything slips into a reflective state ruptured only by gruff growls. The title cut bristles from the start, with a chunky bit of thrashing, sludgy terrain that catches your shoes, and vocals that disrupt and shakes into a state of undivided attention. The guitars stab with intent, with wailing sounding like it’s buried in the background, while the last portion of the song pushes into woozy, weary melodies. Noise drills hard, with drone spreading out and distributing chaos, and the power getting in a few final blows. Closer “Radiance of Being” is an instrumental outro, with the drone carrying over, somber melodies taking up residence, fuzz multiplying and frying off, and the whole thing fading off into the fog.
I’m an unabashed fan of Turner’s work, no matter the project, but it’s really cool to hear him going back to a sound he helped foster and develop. Sumac feels like a monster that traveled from a decade ago to wage war on today’s sounds, and every moment of “The Deal” pays dividends to those who just want our hearing brutalized and emotions triggered. This band does that very thing over and over, and this is a gargantuan beginning for a promising new project.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/SUMACBAND
To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/
For more on the label, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/