In the past few years, we’ve spent some time talking about the challenges and opportunities facing post metal. The genre, after enjoying a massive expansion, seems (or seemed) to be in a crisis; sounds were becoming recycled and the way forward was hazy at best. We preached diversity at the time and called for the blending of the genres, wherein post metal can return to its metal roots and bring back some of what made it work originally. However, most bands appear to be heading in different vectors, some of them welcome; influences from post rock, hardcore, pop and more are seeping into post metal’s base. The problem is that it takes a very special type of musician to balance all of these streams at once, to make sense of what can often be a jumble of ideas and directions. When such an ability is missing, the end result might contain much that is appealing but ultimately coalesces into nothing much.
Thera Roya‘s debut full length, Stone and Skin, sadly contains too much of that confusion. It is an album which, as the title might hint at, has its influences in too opposite styles. On the one hand, thick, heavy sludge and on the other, more atmospheric and ethereal post rock. The latter opens the album with the morose “Saffron” and immediately something feels flat. It’s not that the track is bad but something in the balance between instruments and vocals, the latter feeling somewhat pale, just doesn’t seem to click. The track following it, opening with a much heavier and sludgier intro, only makes aggravates the situation. “Egypt’s Light” attempts to channel the kind of balance between pent up strength and outwards aggression as is mastered by A Swarm of the Sun for instance. While the vocals work much better here, something still feels lacking.
This feeling accompanies us throughout the album. Thera Roya are more at home with their heavier instances than their lighter ones and yet, perhaps in the name of variance or just because that’s the music they make, they insist on blending them together. The result robs the heavier passages of their impact while denying the listener the ability to sink into the lighter one, to let the sheer melancholy of them wash over us. And it’s a shame since, on their own, there’s plenty of merit in them: some of the harsh vocals, especially when melody is introduced to them, are brilliant and heartfelt. So too the guitar passages, especially on the brilliantly named “Dream of Arrakis”. On that track’s opening the formula seems to work for more than a moment, as the sludgy chords pick up from the more dream-y and delayed intro leads.
But that magic mix happens not often enough on Stone and Skin. The result is a confusing and frustrating album, one which leaves you wanting to like it more than you do. The foundations are present but something in the way in which they were interpolated just don’t mesh. Fans of both of the prominent genres mentioned here, as we as post metal in general, should be able to find something warranting a few repeat listens. But anyone looking for a fresh outlook on post metal or a smooth and accomplished blend of genres will find Stone and Skin lacking. Hopefully the band can further refine their sound and how it works before moving forward, enabling their follow up release to amend the glitches which prevent their debut from truly lifting off.
. . .
Stone and Skin will see release on February the 17th. You can head on over to their Facebook to follow them and get the album.