As I wrote elsewhere (read: Editors’ Picks), March is a sort of sleeper month because the music industry suddenly wakes up from its winter torpor and begins bombarding us with new releases. I think there is no where more evident this year than in post-rock. I mean, just scroll down below! There are a ton of amazing releases hitting our ears in March, and even more when you consider February. It’s funny how seasonal these things can be, especially when you zoom out and take into consideration the fluctuations which take place between years.
That’s why I’ve mostly foresworn doing meta-year analysis for a few years now, since I would always be proven wrong by the year next to it; things just change so much between one year to the other. For example, 2021 was definitely a quality over quantity sort of year; the number of fantastic releases wasn’t that high but what releases we did get were exceptionally good. But it looks like 2022, if the first few months are any indication at least, is once again set to flood us from all directions. For example, there’s plenty of post-metal in the list below but there’s also no shortage of more “cinematic” or “delicate” sorts of post-rock; the bounty overflows from whichever direction you choose to look on.
So! Let’s get into it. Fingers crossed that this volume of releases sticks with us and we get another year filled with wonderful post-music. To be honest, even if we for some reason stopped having 2022 (maybe that’s a good idea outside of music, with the way things have been going lately), we would already be very blessed with a wealth of music. But hell, I don’t actually want it to stop, no matter how much I sometimes bitch about the sheer quantities of music we have to contend with. Bring on the deluge! Smother me in notes! Crescendos for the masses! Delay for the delay god!
You, You’re Awesome (Top Picks)
Cult of Luna – The Long Road North (post-metal)
Okay, so let’s confront an uncomfortable fact for me at the top of this. I don’t “love” Cult of Luna. I appreciate most of their work, but for years they never really hooked me. That changed with Mariner, their 2016 collaboration with Julie Christmas. There was an absolutely beautiful chemistry between the artists throughout that album, and the songs had a certain kind of immediacy and purpose to them that I could find lacking in their other work, including their albums since. I wanted to love A Dawn To Fear and The Raging River, but both felt pendulous, dragging on without enough impetus to warrant it. I thought maybe this is just how it would be and that I’d at least have Mariner to adore.
I’m not sure what exactly changed, but The Long Road North is anything but a drag to listen to. In fact, I can confidently say that it’s one of the most exciting and heart-pounding post-metal releases to come from anyone since Mariner itself. Now, some of you who know me well might be thinking at this point, “Well of course Nick loves the post-metal album with Colin Stetson features throughout,” to which I say, touché! But while Stetson’s unique blunt instrument of sonic force absolutely elevates everything around him (I mean, how can you hear what is essentially a war horn blast throughout “Cold Burn” and not be immediately ready to march upon your enemies and slay them?), The Long Road North is not a “collaboration” album in the same way that Mariner truly was. Nor is it in any way a shorter or more compact album for them. The difference seems to be all in the compositional efforts of Johannes Persson and co. The album simply isn’t exhausting to listen to.
It certainly helps that CoL provided some musical breathing spots throughout the album that help set up the fury to come. The warbling voice of Miriam Wallentin on “Beyond I” serves as the perfect cooldown for the one-two punch of “Cold Burn” and “The Silver Arc,” as well as a better interlude to set up album highlight “An Offering to the Wild.” Unsurprisingly this is another Stetson feature, this time bringing along his easily-identifiable unbroken strings of arpeggios. But also once again, it’s more of an accentuating side-dish to the massively impressive main composition itself. Similarly, the beautifully understated “Into the Night” and march-like “Full Moon” guide the listener into the climatic duo of “The Long Road North” and “Blood Upon Stone” before the final cooldown of the final Stetson feature of “Beyond II.” With this kind of music in particular sequencing and building a sonic arc throughout an album are so crucial, and The Long Road North just absolutely nails what it takes to create an enticing collection of tracks that make you want to return and go on that musical voyage again. It seems so simple, but for a band whose been around as long as CoL, it is always impressive to witness such a masterful and refreshing turn.
Toundra – Hex (post-rock, post-metal)
Finding your balance is something which takes time, especially if you’ve had before and are now looking for a new point on which to rest it. I think this is what happened to Toundra, one of the blog’s favorite bands who straddle the line between post-rock and post-metal. If you look at their discography, and our previous coverage of the band, you’ll see that we had some doubts around the release of their aptly named fourth album, IV. We had some doubts around III as well, but that was released well before we started Post Rock Post and before I even started working for the blog.
Happily, Vortex, released in 2018, dispelled much of those doubts and while their previous release, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari was not really my thing, being more a soundtrack (to a classic and brilliant film of course), I was willing to give the band some time to do their thing. Provided they went back to releasing more of the music I loved, of course, which they have absolutely done. Hex might end up being one of my favorite Toundra albums and that’s saying much, seeing as I absolutely adore their first, self-titled release and II.
At the core of this love lies Hex’s ability to take much of the dynamism and energy of Vortex and meld it with the more ambient sounds that Dr. Caligari and, indeed, IV have channeled in the past. The end result is one of Toundra’s most brooding albums but one which, unlike some previous experimentations with the sound from the band, has plenty of groove and “meat” on it to remain engaging throughout its run-time. Check out the duo of “Ruinas” and “La Larga Marcha”, for example. The first exemplifies the kind of groovy, in your face post-rock/metal that we’ve grown to love from Toundra; the main riff is supported by the excellent, powerful bass line, allowing it to explode into the evocative and delay-laden peaks we come to this style of music for. The palette ends up being hefty but colorful, bright without becoming saccharine or vapid.
“La Larga Marcha” in contrast has more patience to it, channeling Isis vibes in its ponderous bass lines which now take center-stage instead of playing a supporting role. The track is heavier and slower, relying on atmosphere to paint a more somber picture but one which still hits much of the same expressive spots as “Ruinas” before it. Which is all, of course, before you arrive at its mournful and evocative outro, where the weight of the track crashes down on you in that signature Toundra way, recalling the notes that first made us fall in love with the band.
These sort of doublets are replete through the album and we could spend more time pointing them out. But what’s important for you to know is that they create this variance in sound that lets Hex “stay with you” way longer than most albums in the genre and, like Toundra’s best releases, generates an ultra-engaging post-metal album. It’s a sincere joy to see this band continuing to find their new balance, holding their earlier, more direct sound in one hand and the somber, more patient sound they’ve found in the last few years in the other.
And So I Watch You From Afar – Jettison (post-rock, math rock)
A band who has consistently jumped back-and-forth and blended lines of post-rock and math rock returned this February after a five-year silence, with perhaps their most ambitious and unique offering to date. With Jettison, their sixth full-length since their 2009 debut, the incendiary Irish instrumental rockers broke into new territory for themselves. Creating an album of one continuous piece of music lasting 45-minutes set to an accompanying visual spectacle, the four-piece doubled their ranks by taking on the talented Arco String Quartet. In turn, their writing evolved to work with this style of ever-flowing composition that gives it a more neo-classical post-rock sound.
Where it lacks some of the triumphant feel of the earlier work, it makes up for it in it’s comforting assuredness. Their melodies just grab you by the hand and it’s impossible not to follow them and let it put you at ease. They lean into the “spoken word” sample trope on a couple tracks here and really made the most of it. Instead of just borrowing from films or field recording, they enlisted the aid of the multi-talented Emma Ruth Rundle, as well as Clutch singer Neil Fallon. Emma’s stirring dialogue on the opening “I Dive Pt 1” draws you in with a hypnotic stillness, before that classic ASIWYFA guitar tone kicks in on Pt 2 and you’re shaken into their energetic grooves.
On the whole, Jettison sees them contrasting their vibrant, motivating approach to the genre with more meditative and introspective touches, predictably augmented by the cinematic orchestration. Orchestration aside, this is a side of them I’ve always wished they explored more, dating back to their first-album with tracks like “The Voiceless”’ which remains one of the standouts in their discography. At times the droney, meandering nature of their riffs can feel uninspired and a tad tiring, lending to a bit of inconsistency. Yet they always manage to pull it back together with either dramatic tension, or explosive fireworks. Speaking of the latter, we get ASIWYFA at their freest here, highlighted by the wildly unique guitar solo on “Submerge” that really caught me off guard. They know their way around a guitar in a way that’s not necessarily the most complex or mind blowing for the genre, but just sounds so damn cool. While this album might not be the pinnacle of their discography, or even stand out as one of the best this genre has to offer this year, Jettison was a worthwhile experimentation from an accomplished band looking to try something new.
– Trent Bos
Enjoy Eternal Bliss (Best of the Rest)
Old Solar – Quiet Prayers (redux) (cinematic post-rock)
Back when I premiered a track from this release, I went into detail on the meaning that Old Solar have for meaning and how personal their music is to me. I could do that here, again, but I don’t really want to. You see, Quiet Prayers (redux), as I hinted at during that premiere, is Old Solar’s most gentle, fragile, and intimate album yet. There are some crescendos and more “muscular” segments in here but overall, Quiet Prayers (redux) is exactly as the title would suggest: small, personal, and deeply ingrained in the relationship between listener, listened, and the world which they both occupied. So, instead of going on about what this album means and how it means it, I’m just going to remind you that it exists and that if you’re a fan of fragile, deeply evocative post-rock, you will want to give this one a try.
felperc – entropy (progressive post-metal)
Usually when artists start to pump out release after release, I am inherently suspicious. You have to ask yourself: is all this music being released really of the same level or has quality control simply been thrown to the wind? There are exceptions though and they are all the more impressive for the fact that they have to consistently maintain their status as exceptions; if a few sub-par albums are released, then my opinion of them returns to one of askance. felperc is one of those rare exceptions which have managed to forego my ire by releasing consistently amazing releases all the while continuing to experiment with the project’s underlying tones and style.
Entropy is perhaps the strongest example of this yet. The album is not just excellent, it also changes completely felperc’s to his music. This is, by far, the heaviest and most crushing that felperc has ever been. While previous releases have included their fair share of crescendos, entropy has chugging riffs and massive chords, burying you in their weight while contrasting with the more “traditional” post-rock elements on the album. Just tune into the album’s title track to see what I’m talking about and wait for that absolutely gigantic main riff to slam you in the face. Nor is this a one time occurrence; there are such heavier passages scattered all through-out the album and even when entropy is not as aggressively heavy, it’s a much weighter, and more somber, album that any other felperc release.
It’s really incredible that felperc can pull something like this off and still sound as good as he does when exploring the more “standard” ambience, delay, and atmosphere we’ve come to expect from him. Whether exploring more ambient works or something more direct, or rather intricate in a different way, felperc consistently puts out some of the best post-rock and post-metal out there and he does it all the time, without stopping. This makes the project truly a one of a kind, standing above the field by several shoulders.
Deathcrash – Return (post-rock, slowcore)
An unexpected standout from the start of this year came from London-based post-rock/slowcore act deathcrash, with their poignant debut full-length Return. Need some post-rock to cheer you up? Well, this certainly isn’t it. Return has the delicate melancholy of Midwest-emo acts like American Football, blended with touches of the bleak, crushing distortion of heavier shoegaze-slowcore of a Planning For Burial.
What might first come across as just a moody, first-wave slow-moving post-rock release with emo-adjacent vocals quickly evolves into something much more as throughout the over an hour long run time a lot of dynamic territory is explored. There’s the surprisingly catchy chorus of “American Metal”, the frantic screamo of “Wrestle With Jimmy” to the passionate lyricism and spatterings of art-punk throughout which seems to be taking over the UK scene at the moment. While the Slint revival going on currently isn’t for everyone, the intimacy and emotion deathcrash have on display is undeniably compelling, offering a unique take on an old-style.
The Endless Shimmering (Other Notable Releases)
Grivo – Omit (shoegaze)
What a year it’s been already for the ‘gazy stuff. We maybe could have covered SOM’s new one The Shape Of Everything here, although its sheer approachability makes it hard to qualify it as a post- type of release. It’s a fantastic album, though. Cloakroom recently released Dissolution Waves to strong praise, and on the doomgaze front, I’ll get to Mountaineer in a moment. But my favorite of the bunch so far is this sophomore effort from Austin’s Grivo. I thought their debut record was fine, but Omit is a massive step up. The production is exquisite, the vocals are perfectly placed in the mix, the melodies are earworms, and the heavy parts hit hard. In any other month I would lavish this with a full write-up, but as you can see, there was a lot to cover to start 2022. Just know that, barring an absolute onslaught of incredible records, this one is probably landing in my Top 10 for the year when all is said and done.
KYOTY – Isolation (post-metal)
These New Hampshire post-metallers were already in a sort of isolation state prior to COVID, as their presence in the post- scene has always been enigmatic and self-contained. I live one state over in Vermont, and the first time I heard of them was through someone in Europe who had stumbled across them on Bandcamp. Even when they participated at dunk!usa, they basically just showed up, played in the dark, and headed home. So I’ve always found them to be a combination of fascinating and perplexing. But all of their mysteriousness aside, one thing is for certain – they came into the pandemic ready to roll with it; Isolation was written, recorded, and mastered remotely, but you’d never know it. This is as cohesive, engaging, and dynamic as any instrumental post-metal release we’ve seen recently. And at 10 tracks it’s not cutting corners or skimping on material. Isolation is a force to be reckoned with, with focused energy and bone-crushing tone.
Mountaineer – Giving Up The Ghost (doomgaze)
Anyone who’s followed this column for a while probably knows that I love me some doomgaze, so you can imagine my excitement when I realized that this Oakland band – whose 2020 record Bloodletting was among my favorites that year – was back with new material. Giving Up The Ghost delivers immediately, with a hauntingly beautiful intro that leads into “Blot out the Sun,” which features the band’s trademark soaring chords slowed down to a steady, deliberate march, enriched by vocals that play back-and-forth between tormented bellows and drifting cleans. It’s all permeated with an intangible feeling that hovers somewhere between despair and magnificence. At just over 30 minutes, I wish there was more, but what we get is so memorable that it’s hard to complain.
Thought Trials – Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing (post-rock, post-metal)
Wanheda – Desert of Real (post-rock)
Turpentine Valley – Alder (post-metal)
Nordic Giants – Symbiosis (post-rock, cinematic)
felperc – 2021 (post-metal, post-rock)
Dreamtigers – Ellapsis (shoegaze, space rock, post-rock)
Playgrounded – The death of Death (post-prog, sludge, post-metal)