AMG’s Unsigned Band Rodeö: Slumbering Sun – The Ever-Living Fire

“AMG’s Unsigned Band Rodeö” is a time-honored tradition to showcase the most underground of the underground—the unsigned and unpromoted. This collective review treatment continues to exist to unite our writers in boot or bolster of the bands who remind us that, for better or worse, the metal underground exists as an important part of the global metal scene. The Rodeö rides on.”

I’ve got a lot of sources for finding the various candidates for our Rodeö enjoyment: flooded Facebook groups of bands hoping for just one person to click, spews of excitement from various members of the AMG discord group, late night crawls through different Bandcamp tags—the things we do to find music right? Regardless, the post I stumbled upon in one of the afformentioned Facebook groups peculiar, as it was simply the band’s singer thanking the void for welcoming into the world this new Texas doom venture Slumbering Sun—a bold move, I thought, so decided why not give it a go. I quickly found that though The Ever-Living Fire is a debut effort, it’s not the work of untested performers, featuring a who’s who of the Texas psychedelic and riff-fisted underground assembled from Monte Luna, Destroyer of Light, and Temptress. Born partially of ashes and partially of dreams, Slumbering Sun combines various elements from its big sound pedigree—Sabbath-ian riffcraft, melodic and emotional hooks, and powerhouse vocals—into an identity that flourishes from its roots. Drawn to the allure of sadboi tunes with a slight promise of sunshine, we’ve assembled a team of mood-abiding cowpokes to wrassle with the five hefty tunes these Texans have brought forth with The Ever-Living Fire. Here comes the Slumbering Sun. – Dolphin Whisperer

Slumbering Sun // The Ever-Living Fire [February 24th, 2023]

Steel Druhm: Texas doom act Slumbering Sun build the foundation of their sound on their The Ever-Living Fire debut from the quarry created by Black Sabbath and expanded upon by later outfits like Pallbearer and Khemmis. It’s classic doom for the modern age with an abiding love for the genre’s forebearers. Featuring several members of Destroyer of Light, who I’ve reviewed favorably before, the band paid their dues  in the doom pits and it shows on 12-minute-plus opener, “Morgenröte.” This colossus kicks off with 60s hippie music, seductive chanting, and elegant strings before heavy riffs steer things toward the doomsphere. From there, you follow the Ozzy-esque vocals of James Clark as doom leads and sadboi trilling soak your brain in melancholy and nostalgia. The first 7 minutes slip by quickly as the slick writing and execution carry you along. And the album does deliver a few truly impressive moments, but the overall package is held back by awkward moments and ideas that don’t gel. I enjoy the vaguely southern rock swagger on “Liminal Bridges” which references C.O.C.’s Blind era, but there’s too much repetition of its central ideas. Elsewhere, “Love in a Fallen World” is like Warning-esque emo-doom, and though parts are engaging, it’s too twee and sappy for me. Things conclude well with the punchy “Dream Snake,” showing what the band can do when everything clicks (though it meaders a bit too much), and the closing title track delivers mammoth doom riffs and a subtle Mastodon vibe (though I hate the nah-nah-nah vocals). Slumbering Sun have tons of potential, but their style hasn’t fully coalesced yet. There’s more good than bad though, so give it a spin around the sun. 3.0/5.0

GardensTale: We’ve never had two Rodeös this close to one another. Nor have I enjoyed two subsequent Rodeös this much. Slumbering Sun is best characterized as a cross between Pallbearer and Green Lung and could stand shoulder to shoulder with either in terms of quality. The riffs are fantastic, walls of morose guitars that shift from crushing to weeping to driving. The inventive songwriting is subtle, using relatively minor reconfigurations of the rhythm section to alter the mood significantly and keep the tracks moving forward and developing. There’s an understated progressive undertone to the structures, especially on opener “Morgenröte” which never feels like it’s over 12 minutes long. But when the band wants to yank the heartstrings directly they are just as capable, as evidenced by the gorgeously rippling riffs of “Liminal Bridges.” There is a quavering quality to the Ozzy-like drawling vocals, which merely emboldens the emotional impact. Though the back half doesn’t hit quite as hard as the front, there’s still plenty to enjoy in the sun-baked haze of “Dream Snake” and the multi-faceted title track. The production is balanced rather well to boot, although I would’ve liked the drums to hit a little harder. Still, The Ever-Living Fire is an excellent debut and if retro doom that’s big on depression is anywhere near your wheel-house, you need to have jumped on this by yesterday. 3.5/5.0

Cherd: About a decade ago I was absolutely enamored by the emergence of epic doom revivalists Pallbearer, with their doleful guitar leads and cinematic sense of scale. Eager for more of that style, I scoured review sites and followed streaming algorithms, many of which directed me to Elder, much to my disappointment. Yes, they both toiled in similar fields of long form doom metal with 70s rock undertones, but there was (and is) just something rather crunchy-granola-jam-band irritating about Elder that struck me wrong. Slumbering Sun’s self released debut The Ever-Living Fire manages to evoke both that pristine emotive power of early Pallbearer and the more muddled psych-rock feel of Elder. If you happen to like both, then I’m happy to report these upstart Texans do their forebears justice. Personally, I’m able to enjoy the soaring doom they unleash on songs like “Morgenröte” and the closing title track while tolerating the occasional faffing about. Rock radio friendly cuts like “Liminal Bridges” and “Dream Snake” grow with repeat listens, the latter of which finds vocalist James Clarke sounding exactly like No More Tears era Ozzy. Nothing here is revelatory in the way Sorrow and Extinction or Foundations of Burden were, but The Ever-Living Fire is a solid slab of traditional doom so long as you’re ok with the modern rock and prog undertones. 3.0/5.0

Doom_et_Al: What do you get when you combine the vocals of Ozzy-era Black Sabbath, the grunge aesthetic of early Soundgarden, the expansiveness of prime-Elder, and just the tiniest hint of Khemmis from their Absolution days? The Ever-Living Fire, god damnit! If the name-drops have made you excited, then this bad boy is just for you. Slumbering Sun have taken a whole bunch of influences and managed to carve out a niche just large enough that it doesn’t sound too derivative. That it’s a debut is even more impressive. The best thing about The Ever-Living Fire is how effortlessly the band uses its influences to craft fun, expansive, memorable tracks. “Liminal Bridges,” the best example, sparkles and dazzles with crunching doom and prog noodliness that complement each other effortlessly. The downside is that The Ever-Living Fire meanders too much for its own good. “Love in a Fallen World” takes nearly 5 minutes to get the point (the point being crunchy doom). “Dream Snake” gets lost halfway through its 8-minute run time and struggles to recover. Overall, there’s a great vibe here that I want to hear more of. But the band needs to tighten up and jettison the meandering material, because the gaps between “great” and “meh” are, currently, too wide. All of which makes The Ever-Living Fire a frustratingly mixed bag. 2.5/5.0

Dolphin Whisperer: The distorted histrionics of The Ever-Living Fire draw easy comparison to the emotional, doom-laden urgency of Pallbearer (Heartless, in particular), but Slumbering Sun serves more than the tears of its influences and sound cousins. As an extended ode to loss, longing, and dissociation, these time-bending Texas for five melancholic musings captivates my mind and heart through powerful vocal hooks, understated musical flourishes, and effortless tempo and style transitions. Balancing dreamy post rock passages against fuzzy grunge chunkiness against 70s rock leaning guitar twinning, Slumbering Sun keeps the longer form nature of each piece from becoming overwhelming against its slow burn doom backbone. Vocalist James Clarke (Monte Luna) steals the show on multiple occasions, the dripping hallucinatory chants of “Dream Snake,” the Warning-channeling heartbroken balladry of “Love in a Fallen World,” the operatic fervor of “The Ever-Living Fire”—the Ozzy influence is undeniable but Clarke channels a much more trained vibrato and control of volume. The guitar duo of Kelsey Wilson (Temptress) and Keegan Kjeldsen (Destroyer of Light) stain memory with snaking wah lines (“Liminal Bridges”), poignant acoustic passages (“The Ever-Living Fire”), and classic fat-bottom riffs (“Morgenröte”). And a host of friends lend special touches like violin accompaniment (Charlie Sanderson) and gentle backing vocals (Olivia Jacome) to shade already rich moments throughout The Ever-Living Fire with an affective and hopeful luster. Slumbering Sun possesses the finesse to synthesize each of these distinctive voices into a shape that hugs, embraces, and rises above the scars of their own history—the tags flicker old, but this journey feels distinctly modern and tragically triumphant. Looking toward the future looks a little bit brighter burning with The Ever-Living Fire. 4.0/5.0

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