4 out of 5
Label: Brutal Panda
Produced by: Rich Canut
Maybe when you’re a two-person metal band, you gotta over-compensate? Ah, but that’s a simplification of a genre with plenty of solo acts making tons of noise, though sludge-metal / black-metal act Melancholia toss off the basement tape hiss of projects which vocalist Gage Lindsay’s reverbed howl taps into and, accompanied by the gutsiest riffs in town, kit-destroying drumming by Noah Burns, and an absolutely pitch-perfect mix / engineering job by Rich Canut, do indeed crush my expectations of what two people can get up to when trying to blow out my ear drums. (…But also makes melodic, head-banging tunes.)
A touch point here in terms of the format is probably 5ive to an extent, especially when that duo leans more toward sludge – as that’s the de facto sound here – but the aforementioned vocals (which sit distant in the mix and are just a complement and not a focus; my admitted preference for this style) are absolutely of the tortured death metal variety, further echoed in the band name being rendered in an illegible font, and groovy black and white illustrated cover art. However, the forefronting of the instruments, and the “round,” low-end favoring sound given to them, is very 5ive, and that not only works to milk the most out of this setup, but helps to support Melancholia’s magic trick: that they don’t sound like a two-person band. This is the wrinkle on over-compensation they commit: using 5ive as another example, when they pare down to two, it’s loud and impressive as eff, but I can see / hear how it’s two people. Static Church’s rhythm section sounds like it could be an army, especially in the middle of each track’s breakdowns.
Opens Silence in the Static Church and Chthonic Hymn are both perfect, and perfect openers and closers: the former has a bit of a delay before the heft kicks in, but once it does, it runs with it, whereas the latter rides ebb and flow for ten minutes and goes even sludgier and slower to earn its ultimate conclusion. In both cases, Melancholia employs another thing I dig, and I’ll go ahead and pull out a weird namecheck for it: Gavin Rossdale’s sense of delaying the chorus. While Static Church may not have “choruses” as such, it has points where you expect the drums to drop, or the vocals to kick in, and the band instead holds on their course for a few extra bars, but not to a point of getting boring or repetitive. It’s really another little twist that helps make this stuff stand out.
Mid-track External Exodus is the only slight knock, as it is essentially a mirror of Silence…’s pace and setup, just with some acousitc guitar breakdowns. It still rocks, but perhaps wastes an opportunity to more fully dive into acoustics or mix up the pace a little.