Blizzard At Sea are a three-piece from Iowa City, USA playing chunky progressive metal with elements of gut-thumping sludge and panoramic post-rock. ‘Certain Structures‘ is the group’s first full-length album (preceded by two EPs Invariance, 2011 and Individuation, 2012), the recording of which was funded via a Kickstarter campaign earlier this year.
The album kicks off with ‘Under the Firmamment’ whose dreamy, lolloping intro breaks satisfyingly into galloping riffage. Bellowed vocals and frenetic guitar work give way to softer harmonies and a stealthily building quiet-before-the-storm mid-section before returning to the metal. Track two ‘Subjugated Apophenia’ continues in much the same vein and by the time it ends you feel like you’ve probably got the measure of Blizzard At Sea. Then the album’s title track digs in – deeper and sludgier than all that has gone before – and you realise that you may have underestimated them.
‘Invisible Surfaces’ offers a an eerie and atmospheric acoustic interlude enhanced with fuzz bass and Hammond drone, that feels like the final reveal in just how wide the band are prepared to cast their musical nets in terms of dynamics. ‘Almost Awake’ staggers along like a behemoth one moment, fades to a whisper the next, and shows that Blizzard At Sea are not afraid of a well-placed old school guitar solo. ‘Planeswalker’ is probably the most straight forward metal track on the album, but that’s far from a bad thing. ‘Anomie’, a diminutive palette cleansing acoustic instrumental, comes before the Crime in Choir meets Russian Circles, epic feeling ‘Dreaming of Distant Things’. Finally ‘The Golden Hour’ provides a fitting conclusion to the record, nicely showcasing the breadth of the band’s ability and influence.
With ‘Certain Structures’, Blizzard At Sea have managed that difficult trick of spanning multiple sub-genres by virtue of ignoring the (supposed) boundaries between them. At no point does it feel like the band is field-hopping for the sake of it, or being calculatingly choppy; the sound of each song, and of the album as a whole, is completely cohesive.
Now, I’m not suggesting for a moment that you’ve never heard anything like Blizzard At Sea – if you’re a fan of Baroness, or Mastodon, then they’re going to slot into your playlist very nicely – but the band definitely play expertly with the full range of dynamics available to them across the styles they straddle. Throughout ‘Certain Structures’ Blizzard At Sea remain tight, focussed, and sincere.
I must have played the album twelve or thirteen times now and each time I’m enjoying it more, hearing new things that I missed previously. Light as the æther one moment, heavy as a bag of cement the next, ‘Certain Structures’ is a proper, solid, modern metal album that you need to get your hands on as soon as you possibly can.
‘Certain Structures’ is available to buy now from the band’s bandcamp page.
Scribed by: John Reppion