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Of Spire & Throne : Sanctum In The Light

As challenging as it is listenable, Of Spire And Throne's full-length debut was well worth waiting for.

What I like first and foremost about Scotland's Of Spire and Throne is the commitment they have to their sound. Formed around 2008/9, the band have been honing their craft over a number of EP's and one split release with Ortega. The promise shown on their eponymous debut has developed slowly and naturally, with each release seemingly standing quite comfortably on the shoulders of the previous one. Their 'Toll of the Wound' and 'The Trial of Failure' EP's are personal Sludge favorites. Long, slow, drawn out slabs of thick, painful Sludge/Doom with low, throaty Death Metal vocals are generally the order of the day. The single twenty minute track making up 'Vagary' is a lesson to all Sludge bands who think they can write long songs. They rarely deviate from this formula and they rarely disappoint. If (UK) Sludge is your thing then Of Spire and Throne are a name you really ought to be familiar with.

Before I'd even pressed play, the information on 'Sanctum...'s sleeve did more than whet the appetite. Released on Aesthetic Death and produced by Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studios, the review started to write itself before my ears had a chance to absorb the sonic assault. Would my positive expectations about this debut full-length be proven correct...?

The shadow cast by Black Sabbath's eponymous album's opening riff is a long one, and to begin with here it's as though that very track has had its own diabolical nightmare and Of Spire and Throne are relaying the resultant musical horror. The desperately slow bass-heavy notes of the riffs, the sedate drumming and the guttural sickness of the vocals combine to make opening track 'Carrier Return' a wholly unsettling experience. Thankfully, after eight minutes or so, the pace shifts gear ever so slightly and before long were in serious (yet slow) head nodding territory, and OSAT are giving fellow Brits Sea Bastard a run for their money in the slow and lengthy groove stakes.

Before moving onto the rest of the music, a word or two on the production. Chris Fielding's work ought to be known to nearly all who visit this site. A resumé that includes Serpent Venom, Witchsorrow, Moss, Bast and of course Conan, it's a sure enough bet that he wasn't about to drop the ball with this one. Capturing the rough edges and grim distortion of the earlier releases and funneling all of the instrumentations soupy thickness into a well rounded and distinct sound, this is the release that moulds OSAT into the bigger, vaster sounding beast they'd always threatened to be.

Instrumental track 'Fathom', despite its percussionless simplicity, is a case in point. Rather than being a kind of filler before the next track, it takes on a sinister life of its own. A layered experience. It's clever stuff.

The remaining two tracks show some diversity but still stay true to the extreme Doom/Sludge blueprint. Synths and a harmonium are used to augment the discordant fringes of the songs and are a truly creepy addition to the already menacing vibe. There are certain other influences making their faint presences felt. Perhaps a hint of Death/Doom, certainly in the vocals and some eerie atmospherics at times adding to the forbidding and punishing nature of the music. However, try as I might, I could find no evidence of the post-punk influence the press release would have one believe exists somewhere in OSAT's repertoire. Although I did wonder what it might sound like if they were to produce a cover of 'Echo Beach'. Lastly, at eighteen minutes in length, and almost without any vocals, final track 'Gallery of Masks' is perhaps the most disquieting thing OSAT have produced yet. As engrossing as it is harrowing, it conjures up all manor of unseen psychological horror.

I would pitch this release towards anyone who fancies themselves as a fan of extreme Doom. It's a work as challenging as it is listenable. As difficult as it is musical. For those already counting themselves as fans of the band...do not adjust your set, it really is as good as it sounds.

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Reviewer's rating: 8.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Carrier Remain
2. Fathom
3. Upon the Spine
4. Gallery of Masks

Duration : Approx. 54 minutes

Visit the Of Spire & Throne bandpage.

Reviewed on 2016-01-11 by Matt Halsey
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