There’s always one album in the beginning of the year which I wasn’t expecting and which ends up blowing me completely away. It’s so consistent that I’ve come to expect it by now and, lo and behold, 2020’s iteration has arrived with full fanfare. The Osedax might be a name a few of you are familiar with (named after a bone eating worm – the ocean is a brutal place); these Virginia natives are set to release their third album this Friday and so are not exactly new-comers. But I was not familiar with them and so, I had no idea what to expect when Meridians started playing. What I ended up getting was a sludge/post-metal combo of epic proportions, unafraid to take its time, like a sea behemoth lying in the depths of some body of water, ready to strike as soon as its prey appears, centuries if need be.
This is one of those albums that fully understands that in order to make slow, heavy, and tempered music, one must make the crescendos as powerful as possible. Otherwise, the languishing parts lose impact; they set up a crash that never comes, leaving the listener dejected and disappointed. Luckily, The Osedax are masters of this elusive craft. Opening with “Offen”, Meridians first presents an atmospheric and titanic face; after a quiet intro, the chords and vocals flow like molasses alongside the drums, reminding us of nautical allies Ahab or Pallbearer in their crushing momentum. So far, so good but nothing as of yet reaches out to grab us by the throat, as pleasing as this doom-y exposition is. This jugular-contracting moment comes on the second track, “Beacon/Ox Eye”.
“Offen” dies into an extended atmospheric section, morose guitars echoing in the murky depths of sound. This section lingers on into the second track but four minutes in, ushered in by feedback which mimics the rings created in the water when an object falls in, the pace is immediately picked up. Black metal influences abound, as drums accelerate into blast-beats and vocals, where guttural and pronounced before, take on an acrid, high pitched range. The guitars also dial up the tremolo and the whole track quickly whisks itself up into a fury, like a river set loose from its dam. Where “Offen” felt like being pummeled by huge waves, “Beacon/Ox Eye” feels like drowning in white water, the river churning around you as you disappear below.
The momentous, slower sound returns soon enough but the album is sprinkled with these bouts of aggression throughout. They’re what keeps you on your toes: who knows when the crash will come again, when the stolid, measured, doom will once again give way to this unrelenting fury? This makes Meridians an album that demands your attention, as if the faster, more chaotic ideas within it lend credence, might, and immediacy even to the most mammoth-like, sludge-y passages. Which is, of course, exactly what is happening and exactly how excellent doom/post-metal is made. Meridians has that in droves and is sure to go down as one of 2020’s heaviest and most engaging albums. Make sure you get in on this early, since this album is going to demand multiple, extensive, intensive listens.
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Meridians releases this Friday, January 17th. You can pre-order the album via the band’s Bandcamp page. Make sure you do so! Support independent artists if you value your music.