PICK OF THE WEEK: Amarok punish senses, obliterate psyches with devastating debut LP ‘Devoured’

There are records you can feel when you listen to them. They creep inside you, bore their way into your chest, and set up shop there for the duration of the music so you can practically experience every drop of what’s coming out. Conceivably all music should make you feel something emotionally, but we’re talking physically, right down to your bones.

Tackling “Devoured,” the debut full-length effort from doom/sludge crew Amarok, is like going into battle alongside the band as they rehash the emotions and struggles that have woven their way into the music’s DNA. They are long, involved pieces, with two tracks closing in at more than 20 minutes each, and the other two both over the 10-minute mark. To experience this, you must invest, and that’s a lot to ask for a four-cut, nearly 70-minute opus, but it’s a commitment you’re likely to make with no hesitation after you take your first bite. While this is the band’s initial long player, listeners will notice we kick off with a track that starts with VI, in that it’s the sixth installment. That’s because you have to travel back with the band to find the first five tracks of their campaign, spread over splits and an EP, but you won’t feel out of place if you’re just dropping in for the first time. The band members behind this gargantuan effort—Brandon Squyres (bass, vocals), Kenny Ruggles (guitar, vocals), Nathan Collins (guitar), Colby Byrne (drums)—are channeled and emotionally on fire on this record, and it’s impossible not to feel the palpitations in your chest and the anxiety in your face and fingers as these songs wash over you.

“VI: Sorceress” opens the record, a monster at 21:03 yet not the longest song of the bunch! Play by play would be monotonous for these cuts, so we’ll highlight, as the song starts in a bed of acoustics and an extended introduction that floats along before it bursts about four minutes in. Crazed roars and atmospheric doom that rockets through clouds greet you, and from there we get into a section that lurches and bruises, allowing dark, mournful melodies to flood the place. The track keeps unloading, slithering into droning feedback, heading into a storm of harsh shrieks, and finishing with a numbing assault that scrapes away at your flesh. “VII: Rat Tower” is the longest track, a 23:03 epic that starts cold, letting everything quiver before the lid is torn off three minutes in. Growls and screams mix, creating an emotional tidal wave that never relents, while a heavy dose of solemnity grabs at your heart. Cries wrench as the noise rains down, with noise buzzing, and the fires of human tumult reaching emergency levels. Muddy pounding, savage growls, and a crushing crescendo ensure this song won’t leave you anytime soon.

“VIII: Skeleton” is the baby of the bunch, clocking in at a mere 11:14, which is longer than some grindcore records. It kicks right in and delivers body blows, eventually turning funereal and dragging a shadow over everything. Tortured wails and a chugging pace caused brush burns, while the noise wells up and threatens to overcome everything in its path. The tempo later slows and brings calculated misery, only to have the band pulverize you when you least expect it, dragging you with them into the void. Closer “IX: Devoured” runs a healthy 13:45, and it begins delicately, with tranquil guitars and a moment of peace before the track erupts suddenly. The vocals tower amid the fiery, yet solemn melodies, and the music twists at your guts, leaving you a pained mess. The song is later set to boil, with steam rising, and the growls becoming oddly infectious. From there, the momentum builds and pushes hard toward the end. The track gains steam as if it’s running recklessly downhill with no breaks, ending the trip in a pit of bludgeoning noise.

It took eight years for Amarok to deliver their first full-length, but the wait (and the weight of the material) is more than worth it based on “Devoured.” It’s not an easy listen, and it does require commitment, but you’ll be repaid in dividends with the way this impacts emotionally and physically. This is music that makes you pay a human toll, which makes the punishing journey you take with the band well worth your time, sweat, and blood.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://translationlossrecords.bigcartel.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.translationloss.com/

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