I respect a person for taking an interest in their heritage, for exploring their indigenous ways and ultimately for passing those ideals on to their children. It’s worth remembering that the past shapes the future and every story has a takeaway, be it uplifting or perhaps more sobering. As the creative genius behind Longhouse, Joshua Cayer, uses a mixture of doom, sludge and post-metal to recount stories of the Algonquin First Nations and more specifically, of his family’s community, the Kitigan Zibi. Situated in Maniwaki, a town developed on land that once belonged to the Kitigan Zibi Reserve, Longhouse focuses on Quebec, though they hail from Ottawa, Canada. If you’re looking for another Nechochwen with obvious folk influences, this is not that band. Longhouse prefer the less direct approach of big buildups, slow tempos, heavy rhythms and dark, pessimistic atmosphere, burying their influences in their lyrics that emanate with a cut-throat gurgle.
A logical progression from 2015’s Earth from Water, II: Vanishing is the band’s second release. “Hunter’s Moon” kicks off this outing, a sprawling soundscape offering post-metal builds similar in nature to the opening of Cult of Luna‘s Salvation. The track builds on itself, making use of repeated themes or chord shifts, the tune quickly becoming fixed in your memory. The song shows its fullest potential, opening up around a minute and some change in, the fuzzed out influence of Khemmis now invited to the party. Siren-like effects play in and out of earshot, audible bass riffing adds a nice buzz, but it’s the addition of Cayer’s gurgling black metal vocalizations that really gets your attention. It’s an interesting creative choice.
II: Vanishing consists of 5 tracks over 40 minutes. This was another bold choice by Longhouse. Their previous release made up of a more tightly edited 7 tracks over 33 minutes, and this would have been a better choice if applied to Vanishing. This becomes very apparent as you make your way through the mid-section of the album, “Blood and Stone” rising to prominence with its combination of groovy doom and fuzzed out sludge metal that has me hankering for some Down. While each of these mid-section tracks are good and memorable, invigorated with Marc Casey’s modern and salient guitar solos, the songs ultimately end up feeling as though they should have ended a minute or more prior. This is most noticeably exacerbated if you’re listening to the album as a concentrated effort in a review-type environment. I suspect that if I put II: Vanishing on as “background music” this would have plagued me to a lesser extent.
Longhouse closes II: Vanishing with what is their strongest offering thus far – “The Vigil.” As the fuzzy intro slowly and deliberately unwinds, you’re struck by how well the gritty number would fit on Khemmis‘ Absolution. Cayer changes up his delivery here, shifting from the blackened bluster of the previous tracks to clean singing, and boy what a difference it makes! He1 has a striking delivery, one I’d very much like to hear more of, and I almost feel disappointed when he falls back on his signature gurgle less than a minute later. Thankfully he switches in and out of the two vocal styles for the duration of the song, instilling a haunting effect. Though the song does hit a wall around the 7-minute mark with some fatigue setting it, and it wouldn’t have been out-of-place for the big climax to have settled itself here, the last 3 minutes tacked on don’t ultimately derail the track.
Admittedly I would have liked a little more indigenous influence to have found its way into the instrumentation, better song editing in places, and more variety on the vocal application. Ultimately though, when heard under the right listening conditions, II: Vanishing is a likable album with an engaging and memorable approach.