The very idea of being a musical conduit is intriguing. A lot can be said about people who, instead of hopping on fading bandwagons or changing themselves to create some kind of spark that may or may not keep them relevant, decide to follow their dormant spirits and let them guide their fingers, feet, and voices to craft something that is truly their own. Forget about trends, man; it’s about the feeling of those spirits. That feeling is fucking celestial. And speaking of which, Surrounded By Shadows, the self-released debut of Arizona’s sludge/post-metallers Sorxe, proves one thing abundantly clear: those spirits really, really, REALLY dig Isis. Like, a lot.
Opener “Steamroller” lives up to its namesake, with a crawling, repetitive riff and pounding drumming that is indicative of their love of their idols, right down to guitarist/synth/vocalist Tanner Crace’s near-aping of Aaron Turner’s trademark screaming and yowling which is so near-carbon-copy that you wonder if Aaron got his lawyers to check it out. You can tell when the song slows down and goes spacey towards the middle, with lots of noodling and quiet vocals before returning to the main riff towards the end. It’s not a bad song, it’s just not riveting or original.
And the amount of post-tropes in Surrounded By Shadows is astounding. You have bloated long songs that don’t seem to really go anywhere (“Make It So”), a song that is one third feedback and ambient noise (“Join Us”), a song that is COMPLETELY feedback and ambient noise (the title track), and most of the songs on here don’t really engage like good post-metal is capable of doing. It’s like there are good riffs within okay songs. Crace’s sometimes off-key singing doesn’t help matters much (like on “Creeper Beast”), but his screaming is intact, if a bit unoriginal. The true star here is easily drummer Shane Ocell, whose performance on the somewhat overly-long instrumental “Smoke Signals” is phenomenally hypnotic, perfect for remitting signals, controlling mosquitoes, or thinking about the Red Sea.
The sound of Surrounded By Shadows is a little bit underdeveloped for a post-metal album. The guitars have their trademark shimmer and shine and the drums are very much of the “pummelling and lurching” variety, but the bass seems a little flat. When you factor in that the band has not one but two bassists, that can be a little disconcerting. In fact, even after reading the bio and seeing a live performance via YouTube, I’m still struggling to hear the audio appearance of two bassists. Also, some major editing needs to be made to the songs themselves to help the band stand out and not lose the listener’s attention.
Do you ever get the feeling that you’re sinking? I do, but in this case, it’s not into the spiritual world of Sorxe. I can see where their vision quest is taking them, but that vision is more resemblant to drops instead of a river. That’s not gonna be enough to run with the spirit animals they want to channel. At least, not yet.