Samothrace ‘Reverence To Stone’ CD/LP 2012

Samothrace ‘Reverence To Stone’ CD/LP 2012Releasing albums with the same tectonic urgency that they propel their songs along with, Seattle’s Samothrace have recently released their second album, Reverence to Stone, four years after debut album Life’s Trade. This album has been highly tipped as one of the finest doom records of the year and I must admit that it was this fanfare, rather than a previous knowledge of the band, which tempted me to review it. Having had a good while to absorb the record, it would seem that this two track, 35 minute epic of an album has earned its praise in what must surely be considered a vintage year for doom and sludge metal.

Samothrace distinguish themselves from the rest of the sludge/doom pack in quite subtle ways when taken at face-value but over the course of the album they leave a distinct impression through the awesome breadth of their compositions. They’re not so slow and sparse as to draw Sunn O))) comparisons and not as reckless and unruly as riff-bringers like Eyehategod but Samothrace do occupy some kind of middle-ground between the two camps; on the one hand they’ve pensive, emotional and tense and on the other they offer up a huge, aggressive storm of guitar action and tortured vocals, held together by the atmospheric clatter of drums.

Reverence to Stone has been a long time coming due to the band relocating from Kansas to Seattle and subsequently recruiting a new drummer, as well as former guitarist Renata Castagna. This jolt spurred the band back into action and forced them to overcome personal problems to finish the 20-minute epic “A Horse of Our Own” and rewrite “When We Emerged”, a song which originally appeared on their 2007 demo.

Something about the melody that opens “When We Emerged” is instantly familiar and it soon gets carried away on the wings of a mighty, lofty riff above waves of dissonance, distortion and decay; the song has a sweeping elegance without betraying the underlying crushing core of the band’s sound. The combination of ambience, melody and menace, not to mention Bryan Spinks’ disturbing howl, brings to mind Eagle Twin but only as a reference point – Samothrace are their own beast.

“A Horse of Our Own” begins with a lot of sludge-doom swagger and blues bombast, with solos recalling (of all people) legendary Funkadelic guitarist Eddie Hazel (particularly “Maggot Brain”) and a generally destructive emotional feel before giving way to a lengthy quiet section, which in turn erupts and then settles back into another malaise before a final wind throws the ashes back in the air for one last doom waltz. It’s an amazing track, one that truly confounds presumptions about doom or sludge being repetitive or whatever; the song goes places, creates emotional atmospheres and rocks hard too.

These two tracks are definitely companion pieces – they share a certain desperate, hopeful/hopeless mood – and it’s hard not to think of them in terms of the personal turmoil that has been a part of the band’s life in the four years since Life’s Trade came out. This gives Reverence to Stone an ultimately triumphant feel when it’s all said and done – a sense that they survived, and they fucking conquered. There are moments of despair, certainly, but Reverence to Stone could be seen as the light at the end of the tunnel, and Samothrace are suddenly huge contenders in the sludge/doom world once again.

Label: 20 Buck Spin

Scribed by: Tom McKibbin