A great feeling of sadness is felt throughout the runtime of Murmurations. Members Adam C Taylor on lead vocals and guitars; Tom Clements on guitar, synths, vocal; Jimmy Long on bass; and Brad Cook on drums and vocals, started the cultivation of catharsis with their 2019 debut Dead Eden. A promising yet somewhat cookie-cutter sludge metal record. Murmurations refines their sound making a much more somber affair. The dedication to the memories of Ayshe Ballard and Barbara Clements cast a deep shadow, breathing both depth and feeling into each track.
A build-up of guitars gaining a dizzying effect begins Murmurations on opener Sunken Thorn. After the pulsating tones are leveled out by Cook’s drumming, a single guitar chord eventually weeds itself away from the steady flow and just sits repeating the same few chords. Long’s bass dances around the rebellious guitar making its return and the track then shoots into the ether. The atmosphere feels so inviting until a stark contrast of cold dissonance from the vocals comes in. ‘I feel the vastness fading’ lyric hits hard, sounding like the desperate pleas of a rogue astronaut as they’re floating in space and any hope of return diminishes.
A tonal shift at the start of Treachery And Shadows from sludge to doom, in both pace and feel, is controlled by Cook’s nuanced and precise percussion. Occasionally Taylor and Clements guitars begin drifting on their own, only for the drums to wrap around each attempt at breaking free and cradles the chords from slipping away. A slight swiftness is injected and it’s here an appreciation of each part of the band cannot go unnoticed. This slight change could have been messy, but the band moves so fluidly, only growing in power and vibrancy. The guitars eventually do break free and become the centerpiece as the drums start an attack against them. The two punch things out making a dazzling fight.
A momentary moment of quiet reflection occurs on the title track Murmurations. Minimal ambience that’s heavy with the weight of thoughts ruminating like a madness. Like slowly resting your head against a cold, sobering window while looking outside and hearing the rain as things grow distorted and spread out, setting up the second half of the LP.
The atmosphere feels so inviting until a stark contrast of cold dissonance from the vocals comes in…
Dormant River comes in with gentle chords like the distant waves from an ocean. Everest Queen stretch the soundscape into something more relaxing than before as shoegaze elements drip, coating each note with echo. The vocals come in but are pushed so far back, laying leagues away from being the primary focus. Growls feel like the memory of some muffled scream cracking your sleeping soul awake, only to then disappear. The guitars drastically transition from embracing warmth to something far more sinister in a blink of an eye. Like how pity can be replaced by fierce anger. The voice makes a return, stacked with a feeling hellbent on ripping their way to the forefront but just can’t get there for whatever reason.
An even more somber feel starts Divergence. The direct and assertive nature felt in the opening tracks of Murmurations has been exchanged for meandering, keeping the listener on edge. We wonder what will build and what will fall apart. Guitar breakdowns, lush in a deep desperation, do more than any words could in portraying an extraordinary pain that flows like a dam cracking open. Every moment that passes goes more and more muddied and deranged, until eventually feeling like the gentle rocking back and forth in a search for calm. A lone guitar dripping with reverb is all that remains in the final seconds.
The fragile and brittle The Burial takes its first steps with a twanging guitar as the rest of the instruments finally do what they’ve been attempting the entire album. They actually break free and move independently. Clean-style vocals stand in stark contrast to what we’ve been listening to. With three members taking turns singing, it’s impossible for me to tell whose turn it is here, but it’s clearly an even more sullen mood than before. The drums turn that sadness into desperation all while a deep search begins. The guitars move like they’re scanning the same tiny area on repeat for something lost, unable to move beyond. But they’re all on the search together.
At the beginning of Murmurations Queen Everest goes for a traditional, and top quality, take on atmospheric sludge showing hints at what’s to come. But it’s really after the title track, Murmurations, where their strength shines. The guys create a sonic layer of protection over one another. Like each part could crash and burn, but instead is lifted up to continue living and thriving. This saving is remembered, returned, and we’re left with what sounds like a band of brothers helping each other until the very end. The bombastic explosions that occur by every member only become more endearing upon repeated listens. But it’s the care and understanding they have for each other that’s instantly noticeable.
Scribed by: Richard Murray