"Reverence to Stone"

By Earthdog

I have to say that Samothrace’s 2008 album 'Life’s Trade' is one of the rare sludge-metal albums that has really stood the test of time. The album still sounds killer to me after hundreds of spins so this new release has a lot to live up to for me personally. 'Reverence to Stone' is the latest 20 Buck Spin release and it has only two very long tracks but then again the 'Life's Trade' album only had 4 tracks so this band is unquestionably in love with the epic approach. What is immediate about this new album is that this is surprisingly melodic while remaining a total 100 percent sludge-doom album. While the album is melodic, it is also filth-ridden, evil sounding, angry in parts and constantly haunting. The vocals are still in the black-metal mold and even more atmospheric than they were on their last album while the guitar work blends everything from bluesy doom to drones to sheer feedback soaked white noise.

Opening track 'When We Emerged' is a fresh updated version of a song that originally was recorded for their 2007 demo. The song was always a huge beast of a track but it is even more monolithic now as they have injected a new, more savage attack to the tune. In true sludge-doom style the track is a lethargic dirge but Bryan Spinks' vocals sound more chilling on this take than they did on the 2007 demo version. Like many a sludge band, there are passages of feedback induced padding - a sludge-metal trademark if there ever was one. That is fine just as long as bands don't try to base a song around it like some of them do. The feedback here doesn't over-stay its welcome (praise the sludge gods) before with an almighty thud, the band launch themselves into some titanic-sized ugly riffing with bursts of emotionally draining melodic leads. The track is 14 minutes long and does take its sweet time in getting going - about 4 minutes to be precise but the final 10 minutes of the piece is essential sludge-doom stuff. There isn't much about the track that offers anything different from many other sludge-metal bands but the suffocating heaviness of the guitars and bass blended with tormented shrieks makes for a crushing listening experience.

The other track is the all new 'A Horse of our Own' and this is where the real action is. While the opening track is very good but with moments where it is a little dull, 'A Horse of our Own' is pure gold for all of its 20 plus minutes. There is a not a second wasted in this monolithic track and it all flows beautifully. There are gorgeous leads, ugly feedback-laced leads and sabbathian ominous leads and that is just one tiny element that is crucial in keeping this track so hypnotic and memorable. Stylistically, Samothrace don't leave any sludge/doom stones unturned. There is everything from Melvins styled guitar work to moments of Eyehategod hatred and filth but there are also passages that sound like nothing you hear much of in the sludge and doom genres like the bluesy and melodic leads that are featured heavily in the epic piece. Some bands reached their peak with just one song and that is the story with Samothrace and 'A Horse of our Own.' Everything about the track works and even the pinched harmonics sound good and I normally hate pinched harmonics. This is not the kind of album that will change your world but it is about as solid as it gets. It seems a little short when all is said and done - the way the album flows means this is a very quick 35 minutes but you can't complain too much about that. As Saint Vitus recently proved with their latest album, sometimes less is more and in just 35 minutes Samothrace have proven that they are the real deal and they mean serious sludge-metal business.....8.5/10.