Though a lot of post-anything music can, using a single theme, reach past the 10 minute mark without necessarily becoming repetitive or stale, there is still a point where too much is too much. You can only listen to embellishment and variation on one theme for so long before you start to go mad and beg for some variety. I'll be honest, that's pretty much exactly what I had expected this single epic-length post-metal track to be. Thankfully, Bleaklow's EP The Sunless Country, a single 20-minute song, is a perfect example of taking some lessons from the common pitfalls of a repetitive genre and building them up to a more interesting, progressive result.
What I appreciate most is that "The Sunless Country" feels like more than a pointless string of unrelated doodles--themes are reprised and built upon, disparate sections maintain a constant, related tone, and the piece never seems to take random steps into left field. It's not merely a wandering, aimless 20-minute exercise in musical endurance; it has a distinct character and substance that make the piece feel like a cohesive whole. Granted, some of the main melodies do feel incredibly simplistic (the first major theme we're introduced to, for example, is comprised almost entirely of a single chord). And while that may just be a symptom of the genre, I can't help but feel that there could've been just a little bit more localized variety at times. But overall, the piece sounds unexpectedly fresh.
The band's instrumental proficiency and discipline is incredibly clear. While their playing is often very controlled understated, there are numerous places where the music betrays hidden underlying depths to the musicians behind it. There are numerous small bursts of complex drum fills and frills that come and go so quickly that they're easy to miss, and the guitarist only allows himself one heavily reigned-in solo in the second half of the piece. But you can tell they're holding back, not out of incompetence, but of respect for the lighter, reserved nature of the piece. Their technical proficiency tends to manifest itself in the subtle complexity that underlies their guise of simplicity. The song reminds a lot of Gojira in places, especially during some of the intricate polyrhythmic sections. There are also hints of Vildhjarta in the quick, rapid-fire rhythmic patterns towards the last quarter of the piece, one of the few moments where the band really lets loose.
In general, it's a welcome release with plenty to digest. Any fans of post-metal or instrumental prog will certainly take a liking to this EP. It's short and sweet, incredibly well done, and also available to download from the band's website for free. Did you see anything resembling a downside in that sentence? I didn't think so.
7.5 / 10
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