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Sundecay : Gale (EP)

Canada's Sundecay hit the spot with their sophomore EP - do yourself a favour and order it up while you still can...

For every swing, there's a roundabout, I guess. When I first started taking an interest in Rock and Metal, back in the '70s, the closest thing to an independent label was the already mainstream Virgin, and non-label releases were out of reach of all but the wealthiest of vanity projects. Fast-forward through the advent of cassettes in the '80s, CDs in the '90s and web downloads in the '00s, and now the tech exists for pretty much anyone to put out an album with nothing more than a bedroom setup and some freeware. There's your swing...and the roundabout - well, it's still finding the good stuff, even if nowadays it's more like picking individual drops out of a torrent than searching for oases in a vast desert. And the answer still seems to be...word of mouth. The pub may be digital and worldwide now, and you may never have physically met the mates you trade albums and recommendations with, but the principle's not so very different - you still end up congregating in a corner with the folk who've got a T-shirt collection that kinda matches yours. So, pull up a virtual chair and a beer, and let's talk about Canada's Sundecay...

I'm not really expecting you to remember them, though they did put out an EP back in 2014. Quietly, and in a very civil and old-school fashion, patiently posting out actual vinyl copies on the off-chance to folks like me - and, as it turned out, 'Bodies At The Frontier' really wasn't bad at all. There have been a few, seemingly minor, changes since: a new bassist - Derek Hoffman - who also handled the sound engineering duties, a different recording studio, and an artwork switch from skeletal lifeless landscape to a somewhat androgynous, almost icon-like figure. More things, however, appear much the same: once again the music is written by guitarist Brian Scott, with lyrics by Scott and vocalist Rich Pauptit, Mark Chandler (guitar) and Julian Vardy (drums) complete the line-up, the EP's available in a 180gsm vinyl 12" gatefold through Oxidized Records - which, one presumes, is the band's own label, and the music...let's get to that in a minute.

As an aside, the main reason I wouldn't expect most people to recall Sundecay is that absolutely none of the above information is available, unless you happen to have the vinyls of both 'Gale' and 'Bodies...' sitting in front of you. It's not even included in the download versions, websites such as Metal Archives are devoid of detail, the band eschew social media, and their Bandcamp page is as basic and unilluminating as it can possibly be. Looks like they've made use of the swing, but have no interest in playing on the roundabout...so you'll probably have to take my word about the sonic value.

The band themselves go with a 'progressive Doom' tag, and whilst I don't entirely disagree, it wouldn't be my choice of main descriptor. The baseline's more of a proto-Doom/Heavy Rock Pentagram-meets-Dust sound, with some Post-style texturing and occasional Pink Floyd spaciness, which I'd consider primarily modern-yet-classic Stoner Doom. There is quite a lot of fluidity within the compositions, but, again, it's not so much prog-based technicality as more of a typical '70s Rock/Metal "five piece" vibrancy, where the songs are driven by the tension between vocalist and twin guitars. It's a well-balanced take on the style, with vocal cadence largely dictating the mood of the songs, and the restlessly shifting guitars continually embellishing and varying their lines, putting all three on a disciplined, equal but distinct, footing as they alternate reinforcing and countering each other.

Behind the hefty riffing and equal-parts choppy and fluent lead lines lies a similarly dynamic percussion backdrop, giving a depth and fullness to proceedings. It's not vastly different to the approach on 'Bodies...', and though the composition and arrangement has undoubtedly matured somewhat with experience, I'd pick the more lush and spacious production as the single biggest change. 'Gale' has that bit more power and clarity in all dimensions, dropping the slightly hollow and distant edges of its predecessor in favour of a more squalling punch to the guitars and a more stentorian quality to the clean and charismatic vocals. Something in the latter, which I really can't put my finger on, makes me think of Woods Of Ypres. Perhaps it's just the semi-abstract downbeat lyrics (you also get those lyrics with the albums, but they're not obviously particularly conceptual, or specific), more likely it's something in the way their deadpan and dispassionate expression nonetheless manages to convey a genuine and profound emotion. Whatever it is, it's synergistic, and amounts to a lot more than the sum of their technicality - and if you stick with this to the absolute highlight closer of 'The Land That Never Thaws', I absolutely defy you not to be moved by the epic closing exhortation to "cross the line/and be happy again/embrace the pain...".

The net result of all that: I'd probably have to say that it's not a completely purist take on Doom, and nor was it intended to be. But, in amongst the frequently stomping '70s musical framework, 'Gale' channels more than enough visceral and melancholic elements to easily transcend that rather artificial limitation. Bleak, brutal and beautiful - the band may not be playing the social scene, but I am. So, flip your phone online and order up your copy, while I get the next round in. Word. This really is the good stuff.

Editor's Note: Just to clarify, Derek Hoffman filled in on bass for the recording of 'Gale', but the band's permanent new bassist is Ziyan Hossain.

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Reviewer's rating: 8.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Heavy Motions
2. Gales
3. From Corners
4. The Land That Never Thaws

Duration : Approx. 30 minutes

Visit the Sundecay bandpage.

Reviewed on 2018-11-27 by Mike Liassides
Vanha - Black Lion
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