Posted by: Addison – Jul 03, 2012
It's been a hell of a year for doom metal. The style has undergone a pretty steady increase in its fanbase and a concomitant increase in artists, and it seems like recent months have seen some of the most solid releases the genre has produced in some time. Richmond's own Windhand put out one of the best straight-forward traditional doom albums in years, Pallbearer's newest blends heaviness with a deftness for melody that's so accessible even Pitchfork has been throwing their weight behind it, and older bands like Saint Vitus and Pagan Altar have been releasing albums for the first time in years. So it's an ideal time for a band like Samothrace to cast out some more of their distinct brand of dark, sludgy heaviness into the world.
The band's previous album, 2008's Life's Trade, was an underappreciated album, one that didn't ally itself too closely with any particular doom sub-subgenre. It was somewhat bluesy, but it didn't sound at all similar to more rock-oriented stoner bands; it possessed a highly developed aptitude for morose melody but it didn't fall in line with operatic, gothic European doom bands like Candlemass or My Dying Bride; there was definitely a crust influence, but the songs' structures were far more intricate and atmospheric than most bands who want to be the next Dystopia. What the album did possess, however, was an expansive open-ness, with an almost Americana vibe permeating the songs that worked in tandem with their devastating heaviness, often seeming like a thunderstorm welling up over an open prairie.
The band's newest effort varies little from their previous work, but that's not at all a complaint. The elements are still in place, but it's readily apparent that the band has become a more cohesive unit in the four years since their last release. The album's two songs clock in at roughly fourteen and twenty minutes, respectively, a hint of the number of ideas arising from the band's development. Contained in those two songs are all manner of sonic peaks and valleys, with hushed, somber guitar passages building into full-band devastation before receding once again. Not that Samothrace were ever sloppy, but the musicianship on Reverence To Stone seems slightly tighter than on previous releases, though that could have been a product of the cleaner recording. This may be a point of contention for some fans, who may prefer the rougher qualities of the older albums, but the differences aren't substantial enough to weaken the band's newer material at all.
So while Reverence To Stone doesn't really fall too far from what Samothrace has already accomplished, its consistency helps emphasize their ability to separate themselves from their contemporaries. While there are a lot of bands working with a similar aesthetic palette, nobody sounds like Samothrace. They carved out a sound, and any subsequent refinements are subtle. But subtlety has always characterized what they do, alongside a sense of atmosphere, and a graceful intermingling of influences that many such bands could only hope for. They have yet to witness the sort of success that's been bestowed upon many of their vastly inferior contemporaries, but hopefully the timing of their new release can help them get the attention that's years overdue.
by Graham Scala