December 8, 2013 by Dan Swinhoe
Post metal is dangerously close to becoming the progressive rock for today’s modern metal man; long, complicated, full of contemplative beard stroking, but lacking any real entertainment. Are Caves Of Glass & From Beneath Billows beard strokers or entertainers?
Caves Of Glass – Caves Of Glass
Caves Of Glass walk the fine line between entertainment and indulgent beard stroking – sometimes crushing with sonic excess, but often meandering in a dream state. The band, a collaborative project including Larry Hansen (Zora, Anatomy of a Lost Soul), Jim Tobakos (Amanita), Dan Leader (Qualia, Varuna) and Zach Galkin (Lethargy ,Varuna) have created a solid but ultimately toothless album.
COG is a mostly instrumental affair that sticks to a fairly rigid formula. Songs start cleanly picked and quiet before swelling into a riff heavy maelstrom. There’s only a handful of tracks, but most clock in or around the ten minute mark, giving the songs plenty of time to build the tension.
Opener ‘The Hollow’ is probably the highlight, but at nine minutes it takes up almost a quarter of the album. Cleanguitars and hazy atmospherics make way for sizeable riffs and fuzzed vocal effects. Huge stadium chords break through, dragging a big squealing solo with it, before all returns to quiet. It’s a grand opening statement, but unfortunately the rest of the record doesn’t quite stand up to its promise.
‘Gone From Oceania’ is a quiet, melancholic piano-led number, while ‘Mariana’ is another slow burner that eventually breaks out in post-hardcore guitar work. Though enjoyable, COG lacks enough heavy moments. To me, post metal is all about the massive wall of noise crushing down on you, aside from the opener, it’s only the latter part of the 12-minute epic ‘Barren Earth’ that really delivers. It feels as though most of this album has been building to those three minutes where the band really let loose, casting aside the shoe-gazing and really showing how heavy they can be. Dreamy atmospherics of the aptly-named closer, ‘The End,’ but with some added bite shining through.
Caves Of Glass is a nice album that’s easy to listen to. It’s well crafted and features some occasionally brilliant moments. But it suffers from too much easy listening atmospherics and too little meat and potatoes riffing.
From Beneath Billows – Monolith
From Beneath Billows, a Norwegian five-piece hailing from Oslo are also purveyors of post metal. But this group are far heavier, and ultimately their sophomore effort, Monolith, is a far more satisfying affair.
The band, made up of Lars Kristian Jagtøyen & Bjørnar Børja (Guitars), Øyvind Daaland Lesjø (Bass), Lars Sundsbø (Vocals) and Lars-Petter Strand (Drums/Percussions), also stick to a tried & tested formula; long, slow burning soundscapes featuring clean guitars that swell to bruisingly heavy crescendos and back again. Monolith is a darker affair though; there’s less atmospherics which creates a sparser, darker record, and the entire thing is just weightier.
The opening ‘One Death and the Kings’ features riffs that Remission-era Mastodon would have been proud of. It slowly lumbers from quiet to chaos and back again several times, building up and tearing down the tension it creates. Every track features these kinds of heavy moments, creating a satisfying series of cathartic releases that makes the whole album very enjoyable to listen to.
Lars the vocalist’s low monotone clean vocals create a darkly melodic mood that balances the sonic intensity of the heavy moments, where he switches to a throaty blackened scream.’Darkens the Will’ broods over some simple chords, slowly building to an explosive release and heavy yet hypnotic shredding. It’s hard to pick standout tracks, since they all meld into one huge mass of ambience and noise, but in a good way.
Monolith is over an hour’s worth of well-crafted yet crushingly heavy tracks. Textures of light and shade mix, but don’t become a grey dull mass that so many other post metal records often do. And that all but one of the tracks is at least 12 minutes long and yet never becomes a chore to listen to is a credit to the bands songwriting. Have a listen below.