In their press blurb Somnus Throne want us to know the work that went into getting their self-titled debut recorded, and the dark and gritty places that it has crawled out from. With this in mind the album lurches into action with a fat buzz of feedback and spooky samples with the intro Caliphate Obeisance and I admit that I’m already starting to feel that I need convincing. Not that there’s a problem with ‘drugs and witches’ doom, but I’m a grumpy old bastard who thinks a lot of this stuff is superfluous since Come My Fanatics and Dopesmoker.
The tone in the first minutes of Sadomancer has me begrudgingly agreeing to give them a chance, even if I do suspect that they’ve plundered the hook from Let Us Prey (which is actually a great album, and a canny one to borrow from as it’s so often overlooked among the Electric Wizard catalogue).
Yes they have a way with a riff, and the ritualist vocals are bouncing around my skull in the right sort of way. The snare sound irks me a little, and then I realise there’s a bit more rhythmic deftness at work than the lumber might suggest. As I wonder what use they might make of this, a thoroughly monged solo pulls us into a slowdown, but with a clumsiness that feels like a compromise.
As the album progresses we see a more epic side from Somnus Throne, and I decide to give up on flagging references to the classics. We follow some other (depraved and despairing) paths into territories less dank dungeon and more metal, picking up momentum.
this will undoubtedly work for many who like their doom in the gutter…
Maybe the sound is a bit vague for this side of things, but it gives them scope to subside into the most pleasing tone – the couchlock is never far away. So weighed down by despair are the band that a sudden punker section at the end of Receptor Agonist is a real curveball, weird and clumsy to my ear but maybe its awkwardness is there for its discomforting effect.
With the tone and drugged-despair, and slight tinge of psychedelia, Somnus Throne are aiming to overwhelm, and in a dark room through real amps and the ritualism of the live set I’m certain that this would work for me. In my front room, not so much. Indeed given the appeal to authenticity they make for the album’s origin in adversity and destitution, it’s surprisingly low in nihilism.
However this will undoubtedly work for many who like their doom in the gutter, and having good sound, a willingness to shift tempo, and a range of vocal styles Somnus Throne have a lot going for them. The question will be whether they can build on this and overcome the difficulties of getting it together to carve out a lasting identity.
Scribed by: Harry Holmes