Love is one of the greatest forces on earth, as it moves people to do extraordinary things perhaps previously thought impossible. At the same time, it also can lead to jealousy, violence, death, and destruction, as that incredible quality sometimes can have a negative effect and create monsters out of people normally not inclined to terrible behavior.
If you summarized the thematic content of every song written since the beginning of time, there’s a good chance love would be the top motivator for creating such art, and probably hands down. Toss Sumac into that pot, as their ambitious, hulking new record “Love in Shadow” examines what it means to deal with that very basic need to love and be loved. These aren’t romantic jams or feats of sexual conquest, which should come as no surprise considering the players involved—guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner (ISIS, Old man Gloom, Mamiffer), bassist Brian Cool (Russian Circles), and drummer Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists). Instead, they put their focus examining the beautiful and corrupting powers of love, which can make a person a tender, understanding being or push them toward jealousy, perversion, obsession, and more. Add to this, Sumac never have sounded this free. This is the hardest Sumac record to date to classify of their three full-lengths, as they melt away any expected ideas of song structure and melody and instead go into areas of free-form playing, where they let their fire-breathing spirits go where they must.
This four-track, 66-minute beast gets started with “The Task,” a 21:32 pounder that feels like a few different songs stitched together. The track rollicks and delivers power as it opens up and bleeds, with proggy sections confounding, and Turner’s lion’s roar vocals concussing you. The track charges, bolts, and rattles over the new few minutes, eventually going clean, seemingly fading out, before a folkish transition settles into the mix. As the heaviness returns, the track begins to sludge, as ominous tones darken the skies, noise coils in the corner, and the drums deliver fury. The pace gets a little strange, while the basslines sneak up on you, and the song slowly meanders into another pocket of calm. The music eases into space, as static pours, organs awaken, and growls devastate while the song fades away. “Attis’ Blade” runs a healthy 15:45, and it starts with guitars clanging, howled words, and everything bleeding into a psychedelic headspace. Guitars and noise zap, as clean playing returns, and the path burns out of control. Cosmic chaos erupts, while Turner’s wails turn bloody, and a sludgy pocket swallows the track, allowing things simmer and steam, letting the price Attis was forced to pay sink in.
“Arcing Silver” is the shortest track, though it still runs 12:02. Thick bass gets the cut gushing, while guitars slice in, and the howls thicken the punishment. Jerky riffs leave bruising, as the band starts to thrash away violently, and the tempo gets tornadic and dizzying. A sound bath lets everything stew in its juices before the song speeds up, wild cries are delivered, and the track is pummeled closed. “Ecstasy of Unbecoming” ends the record, a 16:50-long mammoth that is calm and tranquil at first, as the drums slowly tap, and the noise is awakened. Static begins to spread, and the band starts to chug away about four minutes in, landing calculated blows. Hellish growls and tricky playing emerge, and things drown for a moment before smashing through the surface of the water. The track keeps building new components organically, as if they’re feeling the space and each other’s playing as they add new layers. An instant buzz washes in before the song is torn to shreds, with the pace spiraling, a bludgeoning crushing the earth, and the song ending abruptly, sucking all the air from your lungs.
Sumac’s desire to destroy boundaries combined with putting out content that puts your mind and emotions to the test is all over “Love Iin Shadow,” easily the band’s most challenging work to date. Not only do they make you consider the meaning of love to your own life, they do it in such a way that it tangles up your brain when trying to listen. Of course, that’s the sign of a well worthy group of artists that’ll never be satisfied with the run of the mill.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/SUMACBAND/
To buy the album, go here: http://thrilljockey.com/products/love-in-shadow
For more on the label, go here: http://thrilljockey.com/index