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Sundecay : Bodies At The Frontier

Sundecay make a strong - in places, extremely strong - start with this debut EP.

Well, this wasn't quite what I was expecting when looking at the heavy-duty vinyl gatefold EP which arrived on my doorstep, all the way from Toronto, Canada. The dark, moody - sunless, obviously - landscape on the cover and abstract song titles somehow telegraph an immediate expectation of instrumental Sludge/Post-Metal apocalyptica, to the point where I braced my ears for impact, wound the volume up and waited to be bludgeoned by a barrage of angry, distorted pedal effects...

...which never happened. The introductory howl of feedback didn't escalate to guitar armageddon: instead, it flowed quite naturally into a chunky bass riff, soon joined by an equally groove-soaked Trad/Stoner guitar (authentic '70s lead breaks included) and some deep, deadpan-sounding clean vocals underwritten by versatile mid-tempo drums and plenty of cymbal. Which was not only a surprise, but a frankly pleasant one. And by the time the faintly Eastern-sounding introductory riff to 'Carve A Stone At Dawn' kicked in, and the tribally-patterned toms launched a slightly lurching, off-kilter dynamic with hints of old-school Metal sensibilities, I was pretty well into it. As in: yeah, this could rock!

And indeed it does, starting from a classic sound-of-the-seventies, proto-Doom, Heavy Rock baseline. The effortless shifts between ominously thunderous riffs, choppy rhythm pieces and fluent, divergent lead lines wind over an unashamedly hefty, equally fluid, bass sound; the resultant mid-tempo, menacingly edgy and heavy sound having similarity to the darkest of those guitar-led pioneering bands: Pentagram, almost of course, but also the likes of Dust, Buffalo and even High Tide. At times - particularly the intro to 'They Worship The Sun' - it's only the lack of a Hammond organ (though the lead guitar almost makes up for it!) that stops them veering into Deep Purple sort of musical territory.

It's not all old-fashioned soundalikes, though, whatever impression the above paragraph might initially give. The vocals, mainly, see to that: their curiously-appealing understatement and powerful yet largely dispassionate delivery could easily have found a home in the Gothic/Darkwave scene. Those deep, slow, clear enunciations wouldn't sound amiss variously gracing works as disparate as Aeon Sable, NFD, or even Diorama. Throw in the odd touch of Post-core(ish) shouted backing vocals, a sampled fire burning, and the odd tribal-influenced moments, and the sum total is clearly more than just worship at the temple of the valve amp.

More to the point, it's good, creative stuff, managing to stamp an interesting personality of Sundecay's own on a construct of largely-familiar building-blocks. The five-piece work well together, successfully dividing the workload between all the instruments, such that there's always something different and worthy of attention being brought to the fore of the deep and satisfying mix. For example: the way standout track 'Carve A Stone...' ebbs and flows is a truly blissful, compelling experience. Worthy of note, too, is the attention to detail on the effectively self-released EP, with its professional quality of production and sound, card lyric insert and free digital download thrown in. Impressive work, for a debut, that only falters very slightly towards the end, with the central section of 'They Worship The Sun' meandering a bit and closing 'Oxidized Urn' sounding somewhat laboured prior to its invigorating, but brief, finale.

Whilst that weaker-by-comparison second half of the EP does detract a little from this specific release, it most certainly doesn't negate the talent, synergy and compositional skill on display elsewhere in 'Bodies At The Frontier'. It's a strong - in places, extremely strong - start for the band, and it leaves me expecting seriously great things from Sundecay in future.

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Reviewer's rating: 7.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Into The Daybreak
2. Carve A Stone At Dawn
3. They Worship The Sun
4. Oxidized Urn

Duration : Approx. 27 minutes

Visit the Sundecay bandpage.

Reviewed on 2014-11-22 by Mike Liassides
Aesthetic Death
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