Label: Black Bow Records
It seems incredible to think that, in this day and age, there are still some bands who don’t realise that there’s more to being heavy than just volume. It’s all well and good turning your amps up to 11, but without moments of contrast and actual songs, such volume ends up being counter-productive, resulting in nothing more than ambiance. Loud ambiance, admittedly, but background music nonetheless. It’s a mistake Slomatics could never be accused of making, as their latest album, Future Echo Returns, is a superb example of how contrast is just as important as volume in terms of heaviness. It’s also one of the more enjoyable doom/stoner records I’ve heard this year.
There’s a delightfully hazy atmosphere drenching Future Echo Returns in its warmth, established from the riff-heavy opener “Estronomicon”. A slow-paced behemoth, it wraps the listener in its embrace, encouraging them to just drift back and be taken for the ride that follows; and the following 40-ish minutes are, for something so heavy, oddly pleasant. There’s shades of bands like Kylesa and Torche in here, and a similar understanding that heaviness and down-tuned guitars don’t have to inherently mean negativity. Sure, songs like “Electric Breath” might have some real bite, but it never feels like the song wishes you ill. Some vaguely psychedelic vibes give Future Echo Returns something of a transcendent feel too, as if the music is rising above the stress and misery of the everyday world to glimpse in to a better place, perhaps best exemplified by fourth track “Ritual Beginnings”.
That’s not to say it’s happy fun-time music, though. The heaviness of the music cannot be denied, and the tempo is often slow and measured, meaning that Future Echo Returns is an album with real power, designed with loud volumes in mind. “Rat Chariot” in particular is a vicious little beast that brings to mind Conan, with remorseless sludge riffs and bellowed vocals that are all the more violent for how they contrast with the more melodic technique used towards the end of the song. It also ensures that the semi-harmonised vocals on following track “Supernothing” are even more effective than they otherwise might have been.
It’s the atmosphere of the album that keeps me coming back to it, though. Sure, the songs on here work both individually and as a collection, and there’s a lot of variety (for sludge) on offer; but the atmosphere is what really ties it all together, and makes Future Echo Returns feel like an album that is reaching for more. It doesn’t just feel like a collection of songs, but as an album that’s trying to tell something, whether that just be a story or something more profound. It adds a sense of wonder to proceedings, most evidently on closer “Into The Eternal” – an apt name if there ever was one. The album is no simple excuse to get stoned and rip off old Sabbath riffs, but a successful attempt to create something lasting and meaningful. Excellent stuff.