Since 2005, Belfast based space-sludge juggernauts Slomatics have scoured the cosmic plains for doomy inspiration. The universe is a vast place, and with their seventh album set to be released in 2019, Slomatics haven’t run out of inspiration. Every Slomatics‘ record tells a story. Their 2016 release Future Echo Returns was an earthy beast, dense and direct. Bone-rattling heaviness in the form of fuzz-laden doom was the main tool used on that record; in my review of that release I desired more tenderness, more humanity. Canyons is more expansive, an exploration of the far reaches of the universe. Less muddy, less bludgeoning, Canyons belongs to something spiritual—the over-amplified noise slabs are present, but they’re packaged differently, sent through vistas of the melancholic and less abrasive variety.
There’s a hazier and dreamier tone from the beginning of opener “Gears of Despair.” Higher pitched melodies, choir murmurings and cleaner higher ranged vocals merge as the song climbs the stairway to cosmic heaven. It’s 10 minutes that climb towards a zenith of sorts, gradually expanding as various elements are pulled in by the song’s gravity. There’s no supernova. “Gears of Despair” plods to its end. Drummer Marty’s vastly improved vocals turn huskier whilst retaining the higher pitched register but there’s little else to satisfyingly provide closure for the song. But it sets a promising scene; this instantly feels different from previous releases.
Less bludgeoning it is, but there’s still a hefty power to most of Canyons. Marty utilizes Tom G. Warrior gutturals in the fire blast mid-pace deepness of “Cosmic Guilt.” “Telemachus My Son” is similarly forceful as a war-cry of grazing vocal shouts, priest-like choir incantations, throbbing keyboard lasers and simplistic doom merge. Penultimate track “Mind Fortresses on Theia” throbs with a hooky directness. “Beyond The Canopy” appears to be travelling the same well-worn path until a mid-song shift eradicates the doom completely. Sunshine appears overhead as soft reverb drenched licks and background shimmer sounds tip-toe between one another. It’s a beautiful contrast and a timely switch in tone. Then, an explosion of sound to end the song—a powerful, well worked outpouring of emotion. A standout track with a satisfying culmination.
The softer moments are needed, aiding the heavier moments and allowing Slomatics‘ to present their biggest strength: the building of atmosphere. The short interludes “Seven Echoes” and “Arms of the Sun” are sweet and luscious breaks that let the album swell and throb organically. “Mind Fortress on Theia” and closer “Organic Caverns II” combine the soft and harsh styles. In the closer, the near-silent ambient sections are annihilated by the thick chunks that Slomatics have so carefully forged over the eons. Unfortunately, the “Organic Caverns” and the longer “epic” tracks lack satisfying closure. “Organic Caverns II” runs out of steam and stutters to its conclusion. A furious explosion of pace or, conversely, a complete breakdown of sounds—strings snapping, amps overloading, cries ringing out in the abyss then silence—may have served the song better.
These complaints are not as concerning as my gripes with the monotony of Future Echo Returns. Slomatics play a doomy sludge which requires repetitions and simplicity. Thankfully, the space-rock vibes of Canyons are more central to their sound. The softer touches add a much needed variety and tonal shift. There needs to be something more, something explosive and speedier—a heartier contrast of sound. Perhaps I’m imposing too many of my own over-indulgent ideals on the band. Simplicity may be king. Overall, Canyons is another adept release that offers a lot. Slomatics stand out from an overwhelming crowd with their sound but, in my mind, they should be right at the fore rather than just ahead of a ravenous pack.