Vancouver’s Seer entered my life at the start of 2016 with their consolidated release of 2 EPs: Vol. 1 & 2. It was a charming, if heavily flawed, product which showed glimmers of talent. Vol. III & IV: Cult of the Void1 represents the speedily recorded and released sequel, still dominated by stoner riffs and heavy atmosphere. I made some substantial criticisms of the former and as such began my time with the latter intrigued to hear if these had been addressed; I must confess that my expectations weren’t set too high.
Vol. III represents the heavier “half” of Cult of the Void though it actually occupies 33 of the 50 minutes. As a baseline I found this to have already markedly improved from Vol. I & II. While retaining grooves of which Pantera would be proud, III whiffs more than a little of Mastodon this time. This ensures that the arguably bland prior riffs favored are now much more technical and proggy. There’s a fantastic fusion of intriguing intricacy and rocking simplicity, with a heavy but warm guitar tone. I’d suggest that the back-half of “Ancient Sands (Rot Preacher)” and the lead on “They Used Dark Forces” are a little too close to Mastodon but they’re undoubtedly good. The writing is sufficiently dynamic to keep everything interesting, even on three tracks over eight minutes, while the myriad riffs refresh the experience without rendering it scatty. I’m also delighted to add that III is devoid of the noticeable clipping and appallingly crushed master from before. While still only of an industry standard, it’s a conspicuous improvement.
Vol. IV, much like II previously, takes a significant step sideways into lighter material. These 17 minutes recall desert mountains to me; dusty acoustics guitars and sparse compositions are common through all, but each has its own identity. “I: Tribe of Shuggnyth” has a quiet, ritualistic feel with its acoustic and electric guitar subtly interweaving. “II: Spirit River” is similar but fresher, with simple scales from 1:45 that are simply gorgeous. “III: Passage of Tears” feels more pastoral, with lapping water and distant birdsong. Finally, “संसार” (“World”) gently crescendos throughout, building to a finale which never becomes heavy but is certainly denser and atmospheric. While somewhat less ‘substantial’ than III, IV is beautiful work and rounds out improvements across the board for these Canadians. Aiding this is the simultaneously crisp yet spacious master which truly elevates the airiness and delicacy of IV.
As you can probably tell, I like this record musically quite a bit. And the clear separation between volumes at least lends a unique slant to Seer‘s albums. But I’d argue that this division is also somewhat disjointed. I think Seer fully realized would feature the seamless integration of their two strands; there’s such voluminous scope for detailed, dynamic songwriting which traverses them. Cult of the Void still feels like 2 EPs, as with Vol. 1 & 2. I could forgive the split in that case as 1 was originally its own EP which was then re-released alongside 2. But this is a single album and was never marketed separately; it, therefore, lacks the requisite cohesion of my real favorites. “संसार” hints at such a unification with its crescendo but refuses to climax. To my mind, this is the logical step to elevate Seer to the top drawer.
This room for growth is sufficiently wide to limit my score but I do indeed enjoy the composite parts quite significantly. Seer have not yet become the beast I know they can be, but Cult of the Void marks an impressive step forward from their début full-length and I’m sure to be back when demanding not just riffs but tranquility. I returned to this review several days later and actually nudged up the score. I’ve not done that before but it perhaps indicates that Cult of the Void is sincerely gripping. I also follow a self-imposed diktat to not use the word “potential” because it’s so over-used — but I shall here since although this is already a worthwhile record, Seer possess all the tools to be great. They have, in short, potential.