To my mind Unearthly Trance was the act that truly defined the doom/sludge push of the '00s. Starting off with their debut album, Seasons of Seance, Science of Silence they displayed a claustrophobic, catastrophic drone induced version at a time where the push was towards the more fun side of doom/stoner. Through the years they kept evolving, switching from the extremity of their early days to more straightforward works, signaled by Trident and especially Electrocution.
In 2010 they released V, and went into a state of hiatus, even though all members participated in the newly formed band Serpentine Path alongside Tim Bagshaw (ex-Ramesses, ex-Electric Wizard, With The Dead). Even though the new project definitely had a healthy dose of Unearthly Trance within its core, and the quality of the music was not compromised, it featured a more standardized form than records such as In The Red or V. In other words, I was really missing the sound of Unearthly Trance.
Gladly Stalking the Ghost, the sixth album of the NYC based trio, follows down the heavy footsteps of their previous works. The record is the sonic descendant of V in most ways, in terms of distilling the essence of their history, from the drone beginnings, the sludge weight, down to the punkish tones and the blackened aura. These guys have definitely come a long way since they started out, and as a result there is a cohesion of all their different sides that is really striking. They do not go into many outbreaks of black metal fury, as they did in Trident, or the rocking tones of Electrocution. But the spirit of these aspects is intact, a listen to the upbeat quality of “The Great Cauldron” and the asphyxiating aura of the opening track will give a glimpse of their bestial nature.
This is an act that never truly comprised when it came to their vision. As easily as they could go on and fill the space with extreme dissonance, each note painstakingly placed in a world of inharmonicity, with equal ease they would go on bluesy tones and rock n roll solos. A listen to “Invisible Butchery” is enough to remember the dragged out guitar strums and heavy drum hits that echoed through the ages, the deconstruction of groove, and the glorified repetitions.
It is a mentality that comes from years past, and Unearthly Trance seem to be one of the few bands that understood the messages of a different era. Their adventurous outlook when they begin enriching the background with obscure leads or temper with noise, when they indulge into black metal outbursts, epic moments, as with the clean vocal parts of “The Great Cauldron,” and at times when ambiance and atmosphere devour the sceneries, as in the closing track, make you think of how Celtic Frost approached compositions. On the other hand, their interpretation of doom/sludge, the cold aura between guitar notes, the unyielding approach to pacing is of the lineage of Winter's Into Darkness. In other words, with each passing second of the album you realize (or remember?) more and more what kind of animal you are dealing with.