Doom pounders Un push back against traditional darkness, bring celebration to ‘Sentiment’

It really can’t be argued that much of heavy metal is a haven for negativity. That only makes sense. There are dark forces at work here, and much of this music is a reaction to all of the horrible things going on in the world and the anger felt deep inside that must find a creative vessel for release, lest the person explode and do something they’ll regret.

But not everything about metal comes from a dark place. Take, for example, long-running doom band YOB and their constant flow of inner reflection, Eastern philosophies, and refusal to give into hatred. On that same path come Un, the Seattle-based doom squadron that is returning with their excellent second full-length “Sentiment.” On the surface, it sounds shadow-drowned and brutal, a long, concussive album that could have you wallowing with your own demons. But dig deeper, and you find far more than that. Vocalist/guitarist Monte McCleary points out that this isn’t another dark foreboding doom record and is instead one of celebration among what often can be a destructive world. Instead of feeding off that pain and agony, the band—it also includes guitarist David Wright, bassist Clayton Wolf, and drummer Alex Bytnar—see their music as a token of gratitude, a way to help feel a little more positive among the stress and anxiety that goes hand-in-hand with most of our daily lives. Even if this stuff feels dark and foreboding, as you’ll read from me.

“In Its Absence” is the 13:42 opener, and it begins gently, with guitars dripping, and a melodic gust taking shape. Deep growls rumble, while the atmosphere builds, and the slow-driving playing keeps numbing the senses. The pace shifts, as the guitars cut, and lurching growls penetrate the mind. Guitars screech before everything fades into coldness, icing over your wounds while the guitars go off again, exploring outer space, letting the playing buzz before fading with a freeze. “Pools of Reflection” is 11:55, and it ramps up the feelings of sorrow, with riffs getting cagey, and then, suddenly, tranquility swimming. A female voice emerges and soars, while the pace bleeds darkness, and the growls tear open all feelings of ease. Melodies stretch, while their funeral doom rolls in mystery, digging in and even upping the pace eventually. The growls get tougher, while the music sprawls, and the track is hammered closed.

The title track brings calm before the playing lights up, and the growls scrape. The slow, grimy assault meets up with leads that are laser focused and stretch the story, bringing a cool gust of air. Out of that atmosphere comes gritty, chewy guitar work as well as growls that smear mud over your wounds. The melodies then simmer, as a gazey ambiance drizzles over the hulking path, bringing brutality along. Things even out again, with hearty winds soothing before the track tumbles away. “A Garden Where Nothing Grows” ends the album and is the longest song here, clocking in at 15:33. Solemn guitars lead to cavernous growls and a flooding noise pit. The song keeps adding intensity slowly, bashing away as the playing meets a thick wall of drone. The growls become gurgles, as the song maims the senses, playing with the pace, and entering into a haze complete with warm guitars. The track gets jazzy, but not in a showy way, as the growls punish anew before a foggy smear takes hold, and the band pounds and drubs you into oblivion.

I love dark and sinister music that digs for hopelessness and depression as much as the next person, but it’s also really refreshing to spend time with an album such as “Sentiment.” Un remind that, while we may drink deeply from punishment’s well, it’s also OK to look around and appreciate the positive aspects of life. You can still be thankful and a brutal metal disciple at the same time, and this is a great lesson to keep in our hearts. Oh, and it’s also one fuck of a great doom album.

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