Frailty within crush – the illusion of impact through dissonance and groove can so quickly be tempered by their integration into a honeycombed network of progressive, exploratory structures. What you end up with is the aural equivalent of a wire brush – thick, harsh lines that mesh to form a shape with more space than solid.
One band that falls into this category are Colossus. Striking moniker, striking sound. Labelling themselves as post-sludge, this Swedish trio have their emphasis very much on the former syllable rather than the latter. In all honesty, there is much more stoner drift in their music than they are willing to admit to. The Breathing World carries on from where their debut, Wake, left off and “follows the protagonist’s crooked journey to clarity in a surreal and mysterious but deeply human world.” Their words, not mine.
It’s actually an album that wobbles, rather than strides, into existence with ‘Yehi Aour / Wanderers’ featuring deep, maudlin guitars, jarringly mirrored by a towering vocal monotone. It soon gathers pace and strength of purpose though, becoming the proverbial rolling stone, shedding moss by the bucketload.
Niklas Eriksson’s vocal has most certainly flourished since Wake and is further assisted here by Tom van Heesch’s (Rammstein, Michael Monroe) meatier production. There is an exciting variation of tone here, and Eriksson experiments by doubling up on the vocals and pulling back from his characteristic top end to explore his full range. At full stretch, when he clutches at his upper register, his delivery does become strained but, conversely, it also provides that unique focal point that separates the band’s sound from the masses.
From ‘Darkling Root’ we are pushed further down their rabbit-hole as the pace rises to become a forceful groove, peaking with the addictive hook that marks out ‘Plumed Serpent’ and the furious cries for “Lib-er-ation!”. Here, they begin to pick up elements of Torche, early-Baroness and little riff affectations that mirror monsters like those of Mastodon and Pelican. They also begin to reveal a certain penchant for subtle post-rock exploration. The softer souls of ‘Virgin’s Milk’ and ‘The Silent City’, in particular, are riddled with emotion as Eriksson dips down to a whisper to pull out tunes that dig their nails beneath the skin. Elsewhere, the dissolute structure that houses the rich, psychedelic pull of ‘Fuga Mundi’ stands in direct contrast to the uninhibited, roaring waves and menacing undercurrent of ‘Whetstone’.
Fans will inevitably love The Breathing World for its esoteric edge, whilst the less tolerant will struggle to accept such histrionics and yearn for more of their famously empowering groove. Colossus have some way to go to find an easy balance between that frailty and crush. What isn’t in doubt is the fact that this next phase in their development is a bold step up from their debut. Its a magnificently diverse, gloriously colourful, forward-facing, wildly introspective album.
Colossus’s The Breathing World gets…