Alright, fvckers, open up those wail-holes and get those gnashers ready. Today’s Angry Metal Offering is not only more doom, it’s more doom. California’s Amarok give zero fucks for your patience or your pitiful attention span, and they take over an hour to inform you of this on their debut full-length – Devoured. Continuing a story that began in 2012 with a self-titled EP, Devoured plods onward with four new chapters, two of which slowly rage on in excess of twenty minutes… hey, get back in the hall, I’ve still got a bunch of words left!
Amarok aren’t just another face among the planet caravan of Sabbath honoring pilgrims taking over Bandcamp these days. Sure, there’s an Iommic feel to moments within “VII Rat Tower,” but this largely isn’t that kind of doom. These Californians create twisted, colossal soundscapes of dark distortion and unsettling feedback, not retro rehashing, but rather the very sound of doom itself. Despair is certainly in the air, chiefly caused by caustic clouds of chugged contempt churning from the fretboard with a despondent reek and pacing similar to Salome, often simmering in a stifling steam of feedback before violently lashing out with fierce snarls of post-poisoned sludge which recall The Rodeo Idiot Engine‘s darkest moments. Given the versatility of the music and intensity of the pervading shrieks, there are even moments throughout Devoured which resemble aforementioned Texas birth-machine far more strongly than traditional doom. Though lengthy as all Hell, any given track on Devoured sees the band incorporating elements of sludge, post metal, blackened avant garde insanity and all things desolate, making it rather difficult to pigeonhole Amarok as just another sludge-sprinkled doom act.
This very versatility and somewhat undoomy doomness is a critical component of Devoured, and it is this fluidity that allows all 76 minutes of the album to downright fly by at times. For example, see “VI Sorceress”: Opener and second biggest behemoth of the bunch, it begins by building a beautiful bit of baleful acoustic bidness into a beast of brooding, blackened post-metal badassery that blows up into a blend of Bell Witch and Usnea before a feedback bloodletting which ebbs into the bleak beginning of “VII.” Doom may be an appropriate tag when considering the pacing and song lengths here, and yet to brush Amarok off as just another doom act would be inaccurate and ill advised as the quartet’s collective sensibility for stylistic shifts allows them to twist and turn through tonal trails in a manner that will keep fans held fast within the jaws of Devoured. This is largely made possible by giving themselves ample room within each track to slowly whip themselves into a shrieking cacophony, rather than rushing in headlong with rehashed riffs set to repeat for roughly 5-6 minutes.
Sometimes more is more, too, yet the massive song lengths undeniably render Devoured a challenging listen. Children of the Golden Age of Adderall and Twitter may struggle to endure merely reading this many words about a 4 song, 76-minute album, and while each track builds into unfailingly glorious and chaotic maelstroms, they also definitely take their time getting there. The latter half of the album comprises the relatively succinct “VIII Skeleton” and “IX Devoured” – 11 and almost 14 minutes, respectively – which effectively boosts the overall flow of Devoured, but this shift into warp speed may arrive too late for those whose attention spans are laid to waste by the preceding 45 minutes. Additionally, “VI” pushes the envelope ov squeals about as far as can be withstood, stretching a skull-piercing swath of feedback into a maundering outro that almost hurts before it actually ends; Utilizing the musical equivalent of nails on a chalkboard so extensively is a bold move to begin with, but the intensity and durations exhibited on “VI” are damn near assault, and this level of forced discomfort is sure to pair poorly with the monolithic run-times for many a listener. However, those who survive the onslaught are rewarded with moments of serene minimalism and pensive post processions, all of which restore balance to the album and sanity to the listener in a prodigious display of keen song writing.
Prepare for mind-blowage: ultimately, enjoyment of this album will vary among listeners. The songcrafting really is quite effective and rewarding if one has the palette and patience for this kind of thing, but those with fleeting attention spans, faint hearts and fragile ear drums (seriously, “VI”‘s feedback is practically weapons-grade) should probably just shuffle on and spare themselves a triggering. I, however, am not too mortal to properly enjoy of deep Devoured, so 3.5 it is. Bitches.