Do you ever get the feeling that some albums were just made for you? Every twist and turn feels right, exactly where you wanted to go. It’s even cooler when it happens with an entire genre or sound, where all the bands working in it seem intent to make music that’s made to please you. That’s where I’m at with the growing number of progressive doom/stoner/sludge/whatever bands that’s only been getting bigger in the past few years. Bands like Dreadnought or The Flight of Sleipnir, sounds which meld flute, violin, and synths with black metal, progressive rock, doom, and stoner. Albums where the guitar crash but also caress, tracks where them measure is always facing forward and where momentum rules the day, channeling the slower segments like glaciers towards their goal.
Maeth‘s Shrouded Mountain, released in 2016, was an excellent addition to this milieu. It wove drippy guitars, overladen with distortion and overdrive, amazing flute segments and ambitious track and album structures into one bewildering whole. This is why it is my very distinct pleasure to premiere their next album today. It goes by the name of Whaling Village and is comprised of three incredible tracks which further cement Maeth as one of the more important voices in this mini-scene of progressive doom metal. This release doubles down on their sound, handing us a more refined and yet, somehow heavier and more oppressive, version of the Maeth sound. It is contradiction all but also harmonious and melodic in heart wrenching ways.
The opening track, “Everything is an orchid,”, is a great example of this. It opens with echoing cymbal touches which are quickly joined by a morose and melancholic guitar line. This line enjoys its few moments in the sun before the rest of the guitars and drums come crashing down. Once they have, however, it carries on, adding another layer to the aural assault. Indeed, it quickly transforms into a tone that’s more full and distinguished, feedback flaring as the track coalesces out of the intro and into its main passages. This transition is marked by the introduction of the vocals, raw splendor spilling onto the microphone.
These were recorded in St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral of Minneapolis and it might be auto-suggestion from knowing that fact, but they certainly sound like it. There’s a fragility to them, as if they’re coming from deep under the ocean or from away, swallowed in the echo of the cathedral. Underneath them, almost as if it’s trying to prop them up, lives the bass guitar, which plays an amazing role on this track. When the guitars break once again into more acoustic territories, you’re thoroughly transfigured. Then there’s a flute solo. And amazing reiterations on the main theme. And this is just the first track god damn it.
Further along in the album, we can find lots of other great ideas, like the amazingly drawn out build ups of “but I am shafts of light.” or the groovy riffs and hi-hats which open “ˈsɪksˈtiːn əʊ-naɪn,”, the track which stitches this album together. All in all, this is one hell of a release. It’s an album I’ll keep coming back to for a long time to come, just like their previous album, in attempt to understand everything. But it’s also an album I can just throw on and get lost in the music, as it envelopes me with its sonorous tone. Make sure to head on over to their Bandcamp above/below and snag this beast for whatever you can pay; support underground music!