Somnuri – Nefarious Wave Review

In 2017, NYC sludge band Somnuri released their eponymous debut to relatively little fanfare. No one around these parts seemed to catch it, but thanks to a personal connection to the band, I did. Somnuri was a solid mix of early Mastodon progressive sludge with Yob-ish doom tendencies. It was better than a self released debut has any right to be, with songs like “Kaizen,” “Inhabitant” and “Through the Dead” landing on several of my personal playlists. With the band on my radar, I’ve been hoping to see a follow up surface in our promo pit for some time. Lo and behold, Nefarious Wave comes to us courtesy of their new label Blues Funeral four long years after their debut. With such a gap between records, one would hope for, if not expect, a fair amount of evolution and refinement. From my first listen to Nefarious Wave, it was clear that Somnuri has spent the last four years well.

Nefarious Wave pulls off an impressive sludge hat trick, switching easily between the three main contemporary iterations of the genre over the course of the album and often within the same song. There’s the progressive side, mixing heavy passages with thoughtful transitions and harsh vocals with cleans (“Watch the Lights Go Out”), there’s the crushing crawl of doom with touches of psych (“Nefarious Wave”), and there’s the throwback hardcore (“Tooth and Nail”), which gives the album a particular nasty streak that can sometimes get lost in prog-minded sludge. Where it was easy to identify the influences on Somnuri, which often borrowed heavily from the southern tinge of Mastodon and early Baroness, such touchstones are more fully synthesized this time around. The band has taken ownership of their own sound and vision without losing their roots.

The greatest strength of an album that has several is that cohesion of sound despite pulling from multiple traditions. The flow from song to song and passage to passage is natural and smooth, but it never strays far from sonic hostility thanks largely to that NYC hardcore swagger in “Tied to Stone,” “Tooth and Nail” and “Beyond Your Last Breath.” When Nefarious Wave goes doom, it doesn’t half ass it either. “Desire Lines” is a wonderfully pensive follow up to the piss and vinegar of “Tooth and Nail” and “Nefarious Wave” is downright despondent, but the surprise of the album is the final minute of “Watch the Lights Go Out,” which goes full Thou in its soulfully acrid sludge doom. Smart transitions and sequencing choices keep the disparate elements from contrasting too sharply, making this an album best taken as a whole.

And guess what, that’s a surprisingly easy thing to do, because unlike others of their ilk, Somnuri have the remarkable sense to keep things concise. At seven songs and under 38 minutes, Nefarious Wave blasts through a range of melodic grooves and vein popping outbursts without any musical aspect outstaying its welcome. A song like “Desire Lines” is solid, if a bit repetitive when played in isolation, but in the context of the album it’s the perfect mood shift at the right time for exactly the right duration. The flow from sludgy trudges and vocal harmonies to caustic aggression never feels forced, nor do the compositional progressions ever feel superfluous or self indulgent. Somnuri play like they know they don’t have time to dick around. Each movement and choice feels animated by purpose with an endgame in mind.

Somnuri have taken a big step forward from their already solid debut with Nefarious Wave. While I’ve heard a few sludge records I’ve enjoyed this year, this is the first I’ve loved top to bottom. There are a few remaining notable releases on the docket for 20211 , but they’re going to have a hell of a time dislodging Somnuri‘s flag from the top of Sludge Mountain.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Blues Funeral
Websites: somnuri.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/Somnuri
Releases Worldwide: June 4th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. Boss Keloid is releasing, but I especially have an eye out for new Mastiff.
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