The tail-end of 2015 yielded a fantastic doom metal record which may have reached more year-end lists had it not been unveiled in December. It was called The Tomb of All Things and was the product of a Seattle four-piece with the unGoogleable name of Un. It spun a menacing tale with the tools of funeral doom and death metal and proudly bore some of the best artwork of that year, too. Their sophomore full-length, entitled Sentiment, is now poised for release, with appropriately amazing artwork to match. It can be considered a counterpart to my recent Fórn review: how to execute doom metal and how to not.
So we know that Un fall somewhere close to funeral doom but with more than a hint of death metal. The killer vocals aren’t drawn from Monte Mccleery’s throat so much as scraped from the Fifth Circle of Hell, while the thunderous drums and massive guitar tones round out a package which boasts one of the heaviest sounds I have heard this year. Softening this blow is the Pallbearer-style harmonization which is more melodic and sparingly used to heighten emotional impact at key moments. As a more general comment too, although the record comprises just four tracks over its fifty-four minutes, they are excellently paced. The title track demonstrates this as it consistently feels that it is developing to its finale which subtly layers melodies over a looped riff; the consequence is a track which feels epic in a way which is quite uncommon for this style of doom. Un is truly grand despite their brootal tendencies.
Developing this point, you’ll nary hear a more crushing release from 2018, yet the melodies and engaging song-writing are not left behind. There is a great duality of death-influenced doom, slower, sludgy and towering, paired with melodic sensibilities facilitated through the harmonizing guitar and the lighter passages, which have an almost hopeful edge. This dynamic contrasting is the life-force of Sentiment, habitually revitalizing the music such that boredom with one passage cannot arise. Such coupling accentuates the differences in the two styles; each is stronger for the presence of the other.
Doom can be lethargic and repetitive. To counteract this, I have written previously how I love doom metal with pretty, often acoustic, interludes. Not only do I enjoy the somber tone evoked by acoustic music in a minor key but it confers dynamism on an album as a whole. Sentiment has this dynamism in spades despite its lack of these interludes and is consistently able to surprise. The introduction to the record on “In its Absence” is the closest thing to a pretty passage; a chiller opening is not inherently surprising but it is indeed so when restarting from the end. “Pools of Reflection” has a particularly dense, cacophonous conclusion which feels vaguely like being punched while drowning1 while “A Garden where Nothing Grows” comes to a crushing halt around its middle for the harrowing, the heaviest passage here. I am engaged throughout, which is more that can be said for most doom-bordering funeral doom.
The sum total is that Sentiment is an improvement from The Tomb of All Things, great though that record was. It is also one of the best records that I have reviewed in 2018. While not perfect—“Pools of Reflection” is the definite weak-point—my emotional response is the warm, fuzzy one reserved for the best releases in any particular year. It is a work of dark majesty, enveloping its listener in a great, black cloak; each listen reveals another wrinkle to examine. Un are maneuvering themselves into an essential position for fans of doom.