Review: A Burial At Sea ‘Close To Home’

I have experienced (purely subjectively) the joy of working remotely these last few years and felt the benefits immensely as apparently, I seemed to be wired that way.

One of my favourite rituals has been waking early and starting work long before the sun comes up. Mostly because it allows me to put in the hour or so that means I have the luxury of walking my two young kids to school, but also because it allows me to start the day listening to chilled out tunes while I peruse my emails and drink the first coffee of the day. In peace. Which as a parent is a rare and valuable thing.

A Burial At Sea 'Close To Home' Artwork
A Burial At Sea ‘Close To Home’ Artwork

Over the past few months many of these moments of stillness and blessed solitude have been soundtracked by the latest album from Irish instrumental post-metal rockers A Burial At Sea.

Back with their second full-length release, Close To Home, the band follows on with natural progression from their 2020 debut self-titled album. The preceding four years has undoubtedly brought a lot of turmoil and upheaval in their lives (and the world), but that is not stopped principal songwriters Patrick Blaney and Dara Tohill channelling this lockdown fuelled introspection into plucking bittersweet melodies and inspiration from their Gaelic heritage, expressed through a heady blend of math-metal, brass, shoegaze and afro-jazz.

It can be hard to articulate the haunting stream of consciousness that is the result of this largely voiceless paean to the rugged Northern Irish coastline as Close To Home is a soulful journey that needs to be heard and felt to experience its panoramic beauty.

Very much a personal experience for the band, not only does it draw on the influence of places that surround them but also the influence on (and from) the people in it. The most obvious of this comes towards the end of the album with the sombre ringing tones of masterfred named after Tohill‘s deceased father Fred.

This slow, plodding, dense waltz echoes with reverb and delays as the crisp and ever-present drumming creates a rich and mature tapestry that is somehow powerful, reverent and yet delicate of touch simultaneously.

In fact, this is a perfect microcosm of Close To Home, through the eleven tracks the band continued their drive to eschew the po-faced over serious approach that is often associated with post-metal by crafting an album that is the embodiment of light and shade that stirs ebbing and flowing in perfect poise and control.

Within its majestic sweeping moments of beauty and serene calm, lie understated elements of blistering post-hardcore and passionate organic intimacy…

From the opening strains of lead single páirc béal uisce which builds from shuffling drums and indie light guitars to capture a dreamy far away atmosphere that is punctuated by moments of emotive expression as they soar through loops, dramatic cymbal crashes and over-driven cords that create a sound like the wind blowing on a shoreline.

The second track, tor head, manages to be energetic but chilled out, floating yet frantic, kind of like the juxtaposition captured by Chino Marino of Deftones in his Team Sleep side project. The bright sheen masks a robust sense of dynamics and slow burn below the surface that makes A Burial At Sea actually a heavier prospect than they feel. The taught drumming often forms the backbone of the band’s ability to experiment and express the changes in mood or tempo, like on down to the floor where the playful guitars dance as the music grows with intensity.

After a while, it becomes hard to talk in detail about each track, but this is not for lack of subject matter. Contrasting moments like Hy-Brasil with its driving thump and ocean sounds that explodes into a bright, triumphant vibrancy and objects of the house once again feels downbeat, infused with whispers of samples and the final piece of on the album, DALL (the village of Cushendall where Blaney was born) is best described by the band as ‘a six-minute Siren song of ethereal jazz soaked horn arpeggios that rides on an ever rising tide of anthemic guitar work and syncopated grooves’.

If there’s one comment I have for prospective listeners, it is that Close To Home requires time and/or indulgence. Within its majestic sweeping moments of beauty and serene calm, lie understated elements of blistering post-hardcore and passionate organic intimacy that are crafted from intricate weaving of techniques and unparalleled attention to detail.

On the surface, it can feel, when measured across the full forty-three-minute run, that the elements become indistinguishable from the next as the narrative flows seamlessly together, but the album sinks in and pays off over repeated lessons.

Some reviews come and go and albums fall by the wayside in the churn of new music, but facing a future where my early morning ritual will become disturbed or fewer and further between as the job market beckons, A Burial At Sea will join the progressive sounds of My Brother The Wind in having a special place in my collection for occasions where I want to be nourished musically, albeit in a peaceful and positive way.

Label: Pelagic Records
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify | Instagram

Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden