PICK OF THE WEEK: Usnea bombard senses with mind-tingling doom blast on massive ‘Bathed in Light’

Photo by Amyrose Ahlstrom

It’s not really a secret that the fabric of our society and the well-being of our world has been put to the test. That’s kind of understating when you look around and watch political gaslighting poisoning minds, wars destroying communities and harming innocent victims, and people who wish to live their lives based on who they truly are facing discriminatory legislation. Everything feels more fucked than ever.

It almost seems like a different planet the last time we heard from Usnea, the Pacific Northwest doom quartet that finally has found their way back to us on the thunderous “Bathed in Light.” The band members themselves—vocalist/guitarist/synth player Justin Cory, guitarist Johnny Lovingood, vocalist/bassist Joel Williams, drummer Zeke Rogers—faced their share of hardships since 2017’s “Portals Into Futility” including illness and injury, and that’s not to mention the stress we all felt dealing with a pandemic. Six years feels like a lifetime, but Usnea haven’t lost a bit of their fire and, if anything, their focus never has been sharper as they pour vitriol and passion into these awesome six tracks.

The title track dawns in static before the playing flows amid a staticy transmission, the growls engorging. The track becomes both grim and spacey as the pace begins to pummel, and the ground quakes, the massive shouts penetrating the senses. The combustion spreads colors, and a slow, thunderous move drags the track to its finish. “The Compleated Sage” ruptures into a crazed pace, blazing through destruction as deep growls sink into the mud. The leads swell as the pressure mounts, the guitars fully immerse, and a sweltering rampage takes a violent turn toward the skies. “To The Deathless” brings murky synth that creates a thick fog, zaps making brain impulses fire as mournful leads spread their morbid wings. The playing brings heat as things slow down but remain massively heavy, the intensity slowly building, washing through cold, misty strangeness that disappears in scratchy noise.

“From Soot and Pyre” lets the shrieks land hard as the pace drubs, then the vocals turn more toward forceful yells. Guitars wash over and soothe briefly, and then the tempo starts to rush gradually, howls encircle, and cosmic synth gives the track a galactic glaze. “Premeditatio Malorum” begins clean and drips, and then everything comes to raging life, growls and shrieks trading off and slashing. The pressure builds as the playing gets more cavernous, detached wails feel like disassociation, and the increased lurching leaves bruising. The playing slowly crumbles as the exhaust builds, then corrodes, the final bursts fading in heat. Closer “Uncanny Valley” trickles amid ghostly singing and a nighttime swim in murky waters, explosions ripping sides off buildings. Wild shrieks penetrate as daring playing takes to the skies, the gargantuan pace feeling like it carries the weight of the universe, stomping through heavy emotions. Deep growls register as the playing smothers, eventually fading into chaos.

Usnea’s return not only is a massive shot in the arm to the heavy music world, but it also stands as a testament to the four individuals’ strength and commitment to this awesome band. “Bathed in Light” packs so much weight, both musically and psychologically, and you can’t help but feel like you’re in the middle of a glorious blaze that’s generating new life and strength. This is an awesome record, and welcome renewal of Usnea’s energy, and something to reignite our heats as we battle against misery.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://translationloss.com/collections/usnea-collection

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