SUMAC by Faith Coloccia-2

Sumac, Aaron Turner’s newly formed trio, has once again emerged on the doom metal scene with a second album; the jolting, sloshy epic that is What One Becomes. The album as a whole illustrates a contained chaos, as if Turner has thrown you into the depths of a harsh reality that you just have to deal with. The sludgy heaviness conflicts with the melodic guitar riffs, creating a never-ending confined space. Turner, formerly of Isis and Old Man Gloom, is once again joined by Brian Cook (Russian Circles, TAAS) and Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists), bringing in these noise elements to create an expansive space that shift away from the mechanical stomp-beats of his previous collaborations.

The leadoff song, “Image Of Control,” filled with scraping guitar riffs and heavy vocals, catalyzes the album’s pattern of jarring epics followed by impactful moments of peace.  The pockets of rhythmic drumbeats and steady bass within the following tracks, ‘Rigid Man’ and “Clutch Of Oblivion,” tease pleasantries that soon erupt into the same mayhem. Sumac has displayed the simple nature of the calm before the storm, just not in that order. The balance of anxiety and hope is eschewed by the ever-present darkness that looms both beneath the surface, and right in your face. 

While the album’s structure is interesting enough to distract from each song’s 10-minute mark, Turner’s vocals leave one wishing that he deviated more from traditional black metal singing style. For example in “Rigid Man,” Turner’s voice shifts from vivid darkness and longing, to splotchy and uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s Turner’s attempt to mimic the album’s fluctuating structure, however, it comes off more distracting than supportive of the overall theme of repression. Despite this, the work is strong as a whole. The album’s recording location, a former Catholic church in Anacortes, Washington, is perfection. The sound captured in the massive, repurposed space, now donned The Unknown, enhances the ambient, dense sound of the album. Sumac may lurch us around and throw us into the mosh pits, but they remain by our side with each step. What One Becomes effortlessly captures the juxtaposed feelings of anxiety and the things we tell ourselves to get through the day. 

What One Becomes was released on June 10th, 2016 by Thrill Jockey.

Rolling Image by Claudia X Valdes.

Article Image by Faith Coloccia


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