Consolidating an existing 2015 EP with new material, Vol. 1 & 2 is the debut full-length from Vancouver’s Seer, drawing on the likes of Kyuss in molding their heavy, riffy stoner doom sound. There’s a charming, rustic aesthetic to the music, and their dedication to simplicity is admirable—but this is far from a perfect record. Significant production issues hamper affairs and the music itself never breaches the basic barriers of ‘I would listen to this for fun.’
The type of band Seer strives to be is quite evident on Vol. 1 (tracks 1 and 2). “Glimmervoid” wastes no time in establishing the thick rhythm and riff-dominated style favored for the heavier material, echoing a heavier Kyuss (Sleep?) and approving rocking simplicity over great technicality or progression. Chugging rhythms are prevalent, sporadically embellished with neat guitar flourishes. There are also infrequent nods to the desert atmosphere evoked by the aforementioned influences, such as the harmonica on “Glimmervoid” and acoustic work on “Hive Mind.” This succeeding track largely follows suit, though it distinguishes itself with an Eastern-tinged breakdown at 1:45 and a good solo towards the end. The vocals fluctuate between cleans, shouts and throaty roars, which assists Seer‘s claim to individuality within their scene. The sum is decent but unremarkable; pleasant enough as I’m committed for reviewing purposes but failing to recall me beyond that.
After “Hivemind” comes Vol. 2, tracks 3 through 6. As a young band, these early years are formative and there is subsequently a clear line between the older songs and the newer. The transition is immediate, opening with a vaguely chilling acoustic piece called “Cosmic Ghosts.” It’s sparse, overtly eliciting dusty deserts, and it’s clear that singer Bronson Lee Norton has worked on his clean vocals, which are significantly improved by Vol. 2. This aura above and beyond Vol. 1 is augmented by the strong reverb which laces Norton’s vocals, while placing them further back in the mix. The tracks which follow “Cosmic Ghosts” return to the hard rock feel of Vol. 1—save for the ambient conclusion—but retain some of the indicators of the band’s development. Once again solid, but not exceptional.
The production is the biggest flaw on Vol. 1 & 2 and the problems are multiple and acute. The mean dynamic range is a brickwalled 5, but 3 tracks of the 6 clock in at a paltry 4 (saved by the 7 registered for the acoustic “Cosmic Ghosts”). Even this did not prepare me for the severity of the compression evident throughout, with an unmitigated deficiency of dynamics and definition across the spectrum. The guitars are fuzzed-out beyond what can be construed as an intentional tonal choice, and this is particularly obvious on the concluding ambient track which sounds appalling. The lonely chords, without other layers, vocals or percussion to obfuscate actuality, exacerbate the clipping.
Vol. 1 lacks bass, which is critical to the crunch and groove requisite in stoner and sludge. While the issue was rectified on Vol. 2, new problems emerged. The reverb on the vocals is an inconsequential addition and setting them further back in the mix unnecessarily confers extra dominance on the guitars. Other aspects of the music are accordingly drowned out, requiring greater focus to extract—the kind of focus which emphasizes the severe compression. I understand that the riffs are supposed to be meaty and prominent but this takes the cake.
I’m keenly aware that slating Seer‘s production isn’t a massive scalp in the Allied effort to curtail the loudness war (and save millions of lives) but it minimizes the pleasure I derive from Vol. 1 & 2. The song-writing is genuine, free from pretension and pleasingly melodic despite its heft—but average. This, coupled with the diabolical production, ensures that I really can’t recommend Vol. 1 & 2 despite the positives. At least the greatest flaw here is fixable.