After a couple of excellent split releases, including a sublime EP with their acoustic alter egos Coma Wall, Undersmile finally follow up their previous album “Narwhal” with this new 2-disc, 75 minute epic which sees the band add a new approach to their tried and tested doom-laden approach.
This new album opens with ‘Labyrinths’, which retains the solemn feel of much of Undersmile‘s work but at the same time shows a very different atmospheric quality. This is where the immediate comparison to Coma Wall comes from. After a more melodic approach in the early stages of this track, the heavier side of the band eventually comes through, although this again is different to the usual style, with a much more abrasive vocal style. An enthralling start to the album.
The rest of the tracks follow a similar pattern and lean more towards the melodic, but also contain some of the harshest material I have heard from the band. ‘Atacama Sunburn’ is probably the most familiar sounding track to Undersmile’s previous work, whereas ‘Song of Stones’ sees the band at their most melodic. The twin vocals of Hel & Taz cast their usual haunting spell before you are rudely brought back down to earth when the more brutal moments come in and leave you feeling confused and uneasy.
A definite progression from earlier material. It’s refreshing to see a band evolve, take a risk and make a few changes musically without losing any of their original focus and aura. The band still stretch every lyric and note for all it’s worth and still produce music that is just about as intense as you can get. With just seven songs in its 75-minute running time it’s not an easy listen, however you are thoroughly rewarded for your time. The addition of guest Jo Quail on the cello really adds a new dimension to their sound, really filling out some of the more serene moments on “Anhedonia”. While still keeping its bleak atmosphere, these lighter moments offer a glimpse of sunlight through the dark, grey, thunderous clouds of the rest of the album. Another very high quality release from one of the very best bands this country has to offer right now.