Methadone Skies – Retrofuture Caveman Review

Methadone is a synthetic opioid best known for its use in opioid addiction management. Its long duration of action avoids the euphoric high and rapid crash and withdrawal that results from using opioids like heroin. Naming your band after the slower, safer, non-euphoric substitute seems like an odd marketing move. (Post-rock cynics might suggest that this is a good description for the whole genre, mind.) Methadone Skies are an independent act based in Romania, and Retrofuture Caveman is their fifth treatment program in twelve years. I hadn’t previously encountered their work, but the promo package promises instrumental post-rock plus doom metal, which sounds like exactly what I need to sate my cravings.

Fortunately, Retrofuture  Caveman is pretty much exactly what I was hoping for. Methadone Skies largely fall on the prettier end of the post-rock spectrum. Compositionally, Retrofuture Caveman reminds me most of Do Make Say Think, though without the wind instruments. Long, varied songs built on layered guitars and synths explore a variety of moods and sonic textures. Touches of psychedelia-flavored writing in some songs (“The Enabler”) add fun. At its most upbeat, and most successful (“When the Sleeper Awakens”), it recalls the brilliant God is an Astronaut. While there are certainly spacey ambient passages (“Retrofuture Caveman”), it’s in no danger of hitting post-rock’s slowest, bleakest outer reaches where Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the like hang out.

The promised doom metal twist shows up in the form of occasional distorted, chugging riffs (“Retrofuture Caveman,” “Western Luv ’67”). Unfortunately, these are almost universally very simple two-note affairs which aren’t interesting enough to carry sections of songs on their own. It’s not that Methadone Skies can’t write heavier riffs—”The Enabler” and “When the Sleeper Awakens” are both great and built on catchy distorted guitars. But they don’t seem to have quite got the hang of writing good doom, and the desire to headbang rapidly fades to boredom. This also breaks up the pacing in an awkward way. It’s probably not a coincidence that this problem is worst on the longest two tracks. Both feature extended doom sections that don’t work. “Retrofuture Caveman” adds six solid minutes of synth ambience. It’s not that this is inherently bad—I adored Forlesen’s record last year! But you have to earn that level of ambient section with a damn good payoff, and the ambience needs to feel integral to the payoff. “Retrofuture Caveman”‘s limping doom finale doesn’t deliver.

On the flipside, when it’s good it’s very good. “Infected by Friendship” and the first half of “Retrofuture Caveman” deliver some super pretty spacey post. “The Enabler” and album finale “When the Sleeper Awakens” turn up the distortion for some infectious instrumental rock. “When the Sleeper Awakens” is brilliant and ends the album on a high, with exactly the right balance of heaviness and melody. Production-wise, Retrofuture Caveman would have benefited from a slightly less compressed master, but that’s certainly not to say it sounds bad. Everything sounds clear and bright, even at its most complexly layered with multiple melody lines over a fuzzy rhythm section.

In the end, the missteps here are pretty easy to skim over. At its worst, Retrofuture Caveman just isn’t quite as interesting as it could have been. At its best, it’s great. As a whole, it’s a strong dose of post-rock and not at all the safe filler threatened by the band name. I’d love to see Methadone Skies integrate the doom influences better, but I enjoyed this hit a lot and I’m looking forward to the next.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: May 7th, 2021

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