PICK OF THE WEEK: Crowhurst’s noisy evolution into doom pays weird dividends on new record

CrowhurstThere is plenty of good heavy music out there, enough to fill this site five days a week. There are countless new releases every week, which gives me plenty to remain occupied and often leaves me scrambling to shoehorn everything in, only increasing my stress level even more than it already is. And mine is naturally set at freak out.

But despite having a lot of good new music entering my brain and damaging my hearing each week, there aren’t always special records I know for certain will stick with me and influence me far into the year. But you know those when you hear them, and one of them for me is Crowhurst’s stunning, time-forced-still new record that is practically impossible to describe. Yet I will use my words to give that task my best shot. This band certainly has metal at its base, the doom variant if we need to be more granular, but they branch out to so many different levels. There is noise, post-rock, black metal, shoegaze, you name it, and all is pulled off with remarkable effectiveness. And it’s not just meandering between sounds. Generally the band sets a tone, and from there, they organically go exploring, taking you all sorts of places you’d never expect. If you’re a fan of bands as varied as ISIS, Neurosis, Swans, Atriarch, Shining, and groups of that ilk, you need to get with this.

Crowhurst coverNoise freak/multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Jay Gambit has helmed this project from the start, beginning as more of an experimentally inspired group that took on collaborators and put out a shit ton of content. Seriously, peruse the Crowhurst Bandcamp page, and you’ll find enough content to keep you busy for a week. The music and scope has grown exponentially over time, leading us to where we are today. For this record, Gambit is joined by guitarists Brian Reis and Johan Curie; bassist Spencer Wessels; and drummer Eric Soth to create not only a formidable live act, but one that knows how to demolish castle walls from inside the studio. The band worked with Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Wreck & Reference) on this killer, and they’re putting this bastard out on all kind of formats, including freaking 8-track.

“Penumbra” starts the record and gives you a bit of a hint as to what’s ahead. This instrumental cut has thick bass, buzzing guitar lines, and scratchy noise, and it runs right into “A Precipice of Stone,” a track that basically bursts open like a storm cloud. The music is harsh but also dashed with watercolors, as Gambit’s voice unleashes a sense of panic that arrests the senses. From the pits of atmospheric sludge, the band then dives right into a bruising black metal-style assault, with guitars reaching out for contract and anguished cries pounding home the drama. “Judgement” trickles in clean and cold, giving it a deathrock personality, but then terrifying howls and warm, gazey guitars create the thick, impenetrable force field, and the feeling that you’re watching everything burning down is hard to shake. The band plays with the pace a bit, smearing the last section of the song with soot, and pained cries send this thing on its way. “It Is the Mercy” is the heart-stopper of the bunch, with Gambit stretching out his dark, dreary singing voice, making it feel like you’re buried underneath a million tons of gothic ash. But the pace then quickens, the approach gets more aggressive, and some of the most forceful growling on the record trips you up and begins to devour. The drums crash, the music crescendos along with the vocals, and the final moment drench you like a chilly, damp spring rain.

“Black Oceans” begins with gazey guitars and doom clouds, heavy and dark mauling, and vocals that pierce. Weird wails and melodies cause your mind to twist and turn, creating a vortex of strangeness that claims you and refuses to release its grip. That sense remains in place until just a couple of minutes remain, and the bottom drops out (unloading tons of cinders on your path). The band finds an altogether new level of devastation, with noises squalling, fires blazing, and all forces coming together to create a terrible thunder. “Languorous Void” explodes, with the band reaching into their doom-infested bag of death metal tricks, feeling a bit like Unearthly Trance. There is misery and violence, an onslaught of drubbing, and a finish that works to deliver as many heavy blows as it can before it fades away. Closer “Luna Falsata” is the longest of them all and is a real treat, as Eugene Robinson (Oxbow) lends his deranged, psychologically savaged voice to the track. The passage feels like it originates in the middle of a solar storm, with noises coating the senses with electricity, and Robinson’s voice getting an otherworldly, alien effect. The track feels like the end is here. Robinson appears to be delivering a final eulogy for mankind, with misery at a high point and a foreboding aura stretching out and infecting. As the song reaches its final resting place, so does Robinson’s psyche, as he has a total breakdown as the sounds around him also fold in on themselves, creating a sort of black hole that tears everything apart.

Crowhurst have made an incredible transformation over the years, and their new record—almost like a new beginning—is one of those special albums I cited earlier that do not come along all the time. What’s even more exciting than the music on these seven tracks is to think of where the band will be when their next record comes to pass. That’s something on which we can only guess, and I’d imagine even in the darkest, most ambitious sections of his mind, Gambit doesn’t know either. That way, it’ll be fun for all of us as this band shapeshifts into new future forms.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/crowhurstnoise

To buy the album (CD, digital), go here: http://crowhurst.bandcamp.com/

On vinyl, go here: http://ivoryantler.bigcartel.com/products

On eight-track (for real!), go here: http://wavescrashingpianochords.bigcartel.com/