When post-metal is done right it’s so mothersludgin’ right. It gets a bad rap from some for its lack of definable riffs, pretentiousness, and bloated structures, but it’s one of those styles that can grip and shake your core like no other. It’s a patient, reflective, solitary sub-genre that does require a certain state of mind for the juice of an album to be extracted. Sometimes you’ll be met with a thick wall of repetitiveness that cannot be penetrated, other times with a sloppy mush of watery crescendos and vocals. Sometimes, though, you’ll encounter a beast of an album that throbs with the force of a membranous world-eater, an oozing, atmosphere-drenched annihilator that secretes a vitriolic self-loathing power into your mind as you listen. Yet, this special form of post-metal doesn’t really have a discernible form. It’s one of those bastardized genres lacking a true core direction, a shimmering gaseous Cronenberg-esque creation with elements of everything and anything tacked on for the sake of differentiation – it’s a genre over-saturated and attempted by many from many circles. Enter Raum Kingdom, an Irish four-piece attempting to push to the front of the post-metal pack with their debut album Everything & Nothing. Where are they going to stand when the battle is done? Are they the next Cult of Luna or the next Cult of Poo-nah?
In Everything & Nothing, Raum Kingdom tantalizingly merges Cult of Luna, Neurosis, and Deftones. Fourth “Walk With Reality” is a solid example of this amalgamation. It opens with the mellow and dreamy allure of a Deftones track as the hypnotic dance of bass and clean vocals weave a pessimistic pattern across a canvas of delicate guitar textures. Violent spurts are introduced gradually in typical CoL style as the build-up to the crescendo is teased and developed with a well-measured intensity. Then, towards its eight-minute ending point, the clean vocal incantations, delicate guitar melodies, and crushing force of sludgy post-metal merge expertly. This is a style with a very fine line to balance — over-indulgence is very easy, as is a weak and rushed pay-off. Raum Kingdom find the balance.
The opening three tracks — spanning 27 minutes — are the album’s standout feature and, to a certain extent, weaken the remaining 34-minutes of the album. “Summon,” “Dig,” and “Winter (feat. Mia Govoni)” are a testament to the genres ability to really excel. Within 30 seconds “Summon” opens cascades with crushing heaviness, instantly opening up the album to a world of possibilities. Solitary subtly emerges from the rubble of the opening as light guitar reverberations trickle like tears, but this is soon destroyed by a tumult of careering clean-vocal wailing and bass-heavy guitars. Without pause “Dig” explodes into being, an instantly more violent and crushing track that throbs with a self-confident swagger. Chino Moreno-esque dream vocals clash with the sandpaper cries that float above the music, all a secondary force when held against the rapid chugs and ricochets of layered guitars and manic drums. An unexpected twist emerges mid-way through the album — everything comes to a stop as multi-layered vocal harmonies like something from a deranged, satanic Fleet Foxes album shimmers into existence with an eerie, menacing power. Silence. And then noise — deep, subterranean doominess intensified by the calmness that came before.
“Winter (feat. Mia Govoni)” is a fourteen-minute epic that uses female/male vocal harmonies to hypnotic effect. The first five minutes feature crushing guitar led moments that merge with siren-esque female vocal entanglements that counteracts the darkness of the instrumentation. The remaining nine-minutes leads to the expected crescendo at the song’s end; sometimes a known ending makes the build-up a much more attentive and alluring listen. Mia Govoni’s vocals work a charm, combining with Dave Lee’s dreamy cleans and harsh snarls – a stunning pairing. Not all is great. Though “Walk With Reality” and the intensely heavy four-minute rack “Hidden Pain” are very strong, the ten-minute “Rebuilding The Bridge” and eleven-minute “Struggle” — though good tracks — fail to make the same impact as the top-end tracks. Riffs lack the power and the build-ups are less intense – they’re ultimately poorer rehashings of songs they’ve already written. “Struggle” is better but lacks a defining feature that would give it longevity.
And, thus, the main complain attached to this genre emerge — bloated over-indulgence. Everything & Nothing could have been a great album, but its back-end makes it (slightly) suffer. Bands like Isis and Neurosis succeeded in creating an addictive trance-like mood through their lengthy tracks; I feel it’s one of those things that work magically and beyond the realm of humanity, like some extra-terrestrial force that just decides that the people of Earth will like this long track but not this one. Anyway, Raum Kingdom have a quite unique approach — their clean-vocal touches, especially, are an outstanding feature that could be tapped into more. Songwriting chops are already apparent, they just need that divine-intervention — for the stars to fall perfectly into place — with their next release. I predict greatness here.