Independent – Released – Mar 23 2018 on MP3, FLAC // CD
LP May 30, 2018 (approx.)
Reviewed by Mike Hackenschmidt
“lonely loners on a lonely road… alone”
Review: Sunnata is a Buddhist term meaning emptiness… sort of. The actual meaning totally depends upon context. Considering this, along with the Middle Eastern style writing on the album cover, it’s a bit of a surprise to me that the band is from Warsaw. Last I checked that’s still in Poland.
Be that as it may, the origin of these “lonely loners” being a bit different from the “lonely road” they’ve chosen to walk is not the most interesting contrast of “Outlands”. Instead, it’s the clash of styles Sunnata has merged together, which works!! If you’ve perhaps started the stream then let’s address the 350lb rooster in the room… and that’s the fact that “Outlands” has an undeniable vibe resembling a certain well-known 90’s band.
In fact the first time I listened to this I was struggling to remember who they sound like and I found myself getting off track…
“Into some-thing again
Yadda yadda, blah, blah, blah
So I made big mistake
Something, something was my way”
So, turns out I’m not a huge Alice in Chains fan and ‘Would?’ is almost the only song I know by them. Actually, I don’t really know it. I can just kind of catch the tune and mumble a few correct and otherwise mostly incorrect words to absolutely murder it. But hey, it’s a good tune. I mean… when they do it. The only other AIC song I remember is the god-awful ‘Man In the Box’ that’s probably not as bad as I remember, just that I got thru the 90’s having heard it too many times involuntarily and I’m a bit burnt out on it.
Thankfully Sunnata keeps things fresh and creates a very cool sound by blending the AIC vibe with Eastern folk and doom – I want to say stoner doom but actually, I’m not sure if that’s really accurate. There is a psychedelic feel but the mind bending might be inspired more by meditation and a fascination with the metaphysics. Obviously, sometimes these go hand-in-hand so it might be difficult to differentiate between the two without some understanding of the lyrical content. Unfortunately, I don’t have that.
For the most part, the vocals are distorted and somewhat mumbled, much like my above rendition of ‘Would?’. Maybe if I were a bit more present and relaxed, I could slip into a state of elevated consciousness and be able to decipher what’s being said. Perhaps some other enhancements would help. Unfortunately, I’m sober and watching hockey so I’m otherwise clueless.
Considering the meaning of Sunnata, the album title and the wicked album art, I’m quite disappointed that I can’t dig a little deeper to understand the lyrics. I feel like they would be fascinating, possibly with some ideas I’ve not yet encountered invoking thought and furthering my understanding of the world.
Check it out and experience your own interpretation of this well crafted release. Highly Recommend!!
Members – Maximillian Herbst /guitar, Robert Pelka / guitar, Rafał Szmidt / bass, Jacek Łaziuk / drums
Previous Release – “S/T” EP (2012)
Five years in coming, this second release from Warsaw, Poland based THE SKY IS represents the culmination of time passed between Maximillian and Robert, honing and sharpening and perfecting every moment of the ‘next’. To follow that EP with something even better was the only option. Bring in new blood with Rafal and Jacek and what we end up with is nothing short of a resounding FUCK YES!!
From the tribal intro for the first two measures to the fade in/out guitar droning to the bottom end that has that tooth- filling rattle, and a dark-grin crosses your face before you know it as your heart swells in unison with ‘Entangled’ and you are caught in the pure power that is swirling back and forth between your ears in a feeling of envelopment that fits perfectly. Not even CLOSE to what I was expecting from the last I had heard and I could not be more impressed. The singleness of each guitar is the absolute compliment to the other, one on each side of the mix.
‘Kudzu’ opens with a slower, softer touch, almost making me think of the Southern US where I live, and in less than a minute, it gets dark and heavy again, in a fashion that the legendary plant of the same name is purported to ‘take over’ where ever it grows, much as the never ending time-shift and master-fills do here. ‘Currents’ is like a prancing horse in tempo and pause and the echoing lilts of six-strings in unison flow through your very veins as your eyes close to revel in the sensation of that ride. It’s like liquid from nowhere and everywhere at once until the tempo shifts and the bass line gets fast and there is nothing to do but move, back and forth, in joyous anticipation as the frenzy builds and the fills take back over at a dominating pace.
‘Depths’ is a slow-fade in, jazz-flavored tempo and with a wash cymbal the bass line is weaving another tapestry of intricacy as each guitar circles overhead to swoop down and circle you before off to another direction again in synchronicity perfection. ‘Arctica’ is a quick sonic fade-in until the slow doom heavy bottom end and those ultra low power chords are met again with the mastery that this song and every other one on this record shows to be in full force. Each note is a word never heard yet is heard as clear as crystal in a new snow’s sunshine.
More than just the change in studio and production team from the EP, this album reminds us all that some of the very best is the stuff we have had to wait for as the minds-behind get it ‘just right’ before serving and this one is an absolute MUST-HAVE. Get it yesterday, force-feed this one to every pair of ears you come across and support them if you get the chance to witness them anywhere close… keep it LOUD!!
Warsaw Poland is where this bearded foursome hail from, bringing forth a 6-track masterpiece of doom/stoner metal with this, their third official release. Citing “old movies, 70’s music and magical herbs’ as their main influences, it makes sense that they ‘tune low and play slow’ as they follow their strict regimen of ‘smoking, rehearsing and touring.” If that is what it takes to get to this point, roll on gentlemen!!
Opener ‘Navigator’ is the perfect start to this album with the lone guitar and enough slow-decay delay to carry you until the first rumble of ultra low bass and cymbals take over. For the next minute plus, you feel it creeping into your veins as your eyes close without resistance, waiting for that moment when you hear “Leaf burns to ashes, inhale the holy smoke…” and a grin takes over as you understand. ‘Skulls and Candles’ is even slower in tempo, and is suiting to the tale being told. Love the tone of the guitar solo that takes you to the end, perfectly faded in saturated delay.
‘Scum Priest’ shows the shared love for old movies with the inserted dialogue including “The evil is real, may God have mercy on us” and the crushing assault splits you between the eyes as DOPELORD has shown they love to do, this time with a fury glowing brighter than ever before. ‘Reptile Sun’ is another crusher with a faster pace than usual and you can’t help but to get moving in time.
Two of the tracks stood out to me as incredible and I couldn’t decide which was more of a favorite. ‘Dead Inside (I & II)’ is the quintessential stoner float-along song with their signature ‘low and slow’ pace that carries you to the edges of the picture of lyrics delivered to you with an open hand. When the second part of this tome hits, you are ready for the bass/guitar pummeling that is about to be delivered, feet hitting the ground running. The title track ‘Children Of The Haze’, is near perfection that almost broke my sternum it hit me so hard just HOW definitive this particular composition is of one of the finest moments from DOPELORD… so far. “Dancing madly” absolutely describes how my heartbeat shifted with the flow of this opus.
As the last note faded out, I was stunned at how impressed I was, having been drawn in completely and I am SO looking forward to DOPELORD bringing it live to our shores this year. GOTTA get this one if you don’t have it!!
This is the second full length from the Polish doom outfit, Sunnata. While in full disclosure, I haven’t actually heard their debut, Zorya is certainly a breath of fresh air from what I usually hear from more modern “doom.” I hear lots of bands who hear Sleep’sDopesmoker for the first time, get really high, tune down to G flat, play really slow and think that’s the essence of “doom.” I hear other bands that take the retro route, and just try to ape the vibe of the first four Black Sabbath albums. I suppose that’s all well and good, and not particularly awful places to start off in the overall development of a band, though too often it turns into either a bit of a pitfall or a total dead end. Fortunately, Sunnata don’t fall into this trap. I personally like to hear bands that are interested in growth, development, experimentation, and bringing other influences into the fold.
This album doesn’t disappoint in any of those departments – it consistently surprised me with the various musical twists and turns, sometimes within the course of the same song, like the lengthy opener, “Beasts Of Prey.” It starts in a fashion that’s fairly typical of more contemporary doom, with a droning guitar chord and subsequent feedback, while the bass lays down a groovy, slow, slug wading through molasses intro riff. Soon enough, the guitars join in full force, building the bassline into a mighty wall of dark distortion. Twice it peaks with a more chiming, repetitive chord, before settling into a more mid-paced and punishing variation of the opening riff four minutes into the track. From there it cleans things up, with mellow, swirling psychedelic guitars and ethereal vocals delivered in the form of a mantra. Once things hit full throttle, it seems like there are two vocalists, one delivering a slightly more intense dreaminess, and the other offering a scream/throaty growl in counterpoint. It’s little juxtapositions like these that make Sunnata’s sound so effective, and it’s what makes them stand out in the crowded stoner doom crowd.
There’s a cool little guitar solo that kicks in – it sounds like slide guitar run through tons of delay, and it builds up the tension quite nicely with its mixture of melody and sheer mind searing noisiness. Nine minutes in, we see the temp once again shift into the faster “doom” realms where bands like High On Fire often find themselves. The guitars and drums blur more and more into faster, most melodic terrain, eventually taking on a slightly “blackened” timbre with the vocals and tremolo style riffs, before it suddenly peaks and ends. Wow, what an opener; it’s definitely the album’s highlight for me. The second song, “Zorya”, is no slouch by any means, though it is a little more conventional, beginning with the disembodied vocals posing the perpetual question, “Have you ever spread your wings to fly?” Only in my dreams, guys, only in my dreams. This tune is a bit more repetitive and minimalistic with the riffing, though it works, creating a trance-like backdrop for the vocals to alternate between aggression and contemplation, and there’s once again a really cool psychedelic guitar solo building into a chorus.
The third song, “Long Gone”, brings back the swirling clean tones of the first track, this time more downbeat and drawn out, which really gives them space to breath in and exhale all of their psychedelic goodness. Suddenly, things pick up into an exotic sounding motif, and we’re off to the proverbial races. Things get really intense really quickly, with the distortion kicking in along with a wah, which slowly filters the guitar’s tonality from low to high before flowing right into the verse, which follows the same motif and adds the now familiar vocals. The chorus uses some nice rhythmic and melodic variations, and there’s a section afterwards that uses some sweet syncopation as well. From their, the song repeats its clean intro, bringing in some tribal style drums a la Neurosis that leads to another distorted climax and finale. “New Horizon” starts with a fairly standard, slower doom riff, then shifts into more psychedelic territories with the guitars and vocals, which start out with an eerie chant evoking some cosmic monks on an ergotamine bender. The initial doom riff kicks back in, and the vocals pick up their typical counterpoint of styles. It’s a lot like the second song in many respects, more repetitive and trance inducing, though there’s notably a most excellent interplay between the melody of the solo section and the rhythm riff pulsing underneath it in this ascending pattern that echoes many of the themes of the album without speaking a single word.
They close with “Against And Against”, a song that’s lean and mean from the very start, starting off with a riff that’s right out of The Art Of Self Defense playbook and the album’s most aggressive vocals. I can dig it. It breaks done into some of the slowest riffs, punctuated by feedback and weird echoed bubbles of sonic depths yet to be explored. Things eventually grind to a complete halt in what could be classified as a fake ending, though this is just a tease – they’re not letting you off that easily. The riffs rehash, then slowly fade out, leaving only the barest of skeletal guitars by the end, buried in murk and reverb. Once again, this is a tease. A burst of feedback brings things right back to the forefront. Big, throbbing riffs and vocal harmonies pave the way for yet another bizarre fade-out, this one punctuated by seething white noise. It’s an interesting choice for ending an album, and quite an ambitious track.
When all is said and done, this an extremely promising album from a fairly new band. It’s not just paint by numbers doom – it showcases of a variety of influences and a spectrum of styles, all the while retaining a more modern edge. Sunnata never disappear down the retro rabbit hole, nor do they consciously ape any other band. The most apt comparison I could come up with is YOB, though even that analogy falls a little flat for me as well. It probably has more to do with YOB’s willingness to break the mold and experiment with different sounds and influences more than it has to do with actual similarities in sound. I’m definitely going to be watching this band with curiosity as they continue to grow, progress, and reach towards the upper empyrean of the doom multiverse….
Reviewed By Andy “Ding a ding dang my dang a long ling long” Beresky