Sunday, January 20, 2013

Blizzard at Sea - Invariance [EP]

Blizzard at Sea is part of the wave of progressive bands that have been pulling influences from sludge metal, black metal, hard rock, metalcore, atmospheric rock, doom metal, classic rock, hardcore, post rock, and other various progressive genres. This movement, which has been led by progressive rock band Isis, is considered by some to be one of the most unique metal progressions of all-time. Now, we have another band that can be considered part of this movement that has released a four-track EP titled Invariance.

Because this isn’t being written by someone who knows a lot about this type of music (some call it “atmospheric sludge”), don’t expect to see a lot of historical shit and factual information about influences and other bands. Instead of educating you about the genre and the band, I am going to specifically lay out why this EP is one of the best pieces of progressive music I’ve heard since I started listening to heavy metal. I also believe that this record could also possibly be appealing to those that aren’t fond of sludge metal and it’s different variations in general (like myself). That aside, as always, I’m going to treat this like just about every album I review; so let’s get to it.

Probably one of the most interesting of Blizzard at Sea is not the complex song structures, but more so how everything is layered. One can’t exactly know for sure if this was intended unless they ask the band themselves, but seemingly without turning down any of the instruments, there are parts where a single member sticks out from the others. For example, there are certain parts where the drums are a bit overpowering, and then the guitarist will play a chord that just rings out with so much intensity. When this is happening, you can tell that the drums aren’t playing less or with less volume. It’s an interesting quality that happens in all of the tracks, whether it be unintentional or one of the many feedback tricks invented in the 1970s. And this doesn’t only happen with the guitar, the vocals, bass, and the drums have moments where the rest of the band seems like background noise.

The music itself isn’t very chaotic. It’s definitely loud and noisy (one of the primary characteristics of the genre), but not really thrashy and fast. But all of the experimentation that’s taking place has pulled the band’s sound in a different direction than the traditional slow, thick, heavy, and noisy sound that’s just known as sludge metal. There are parts in all of the songs that have a hard rock feel, especially the intro to Closed Universe. Because I’m not 100% sure what exactly their influences are, I can’t say that I’m completely accurate on this statement, but it sounds and feels like the atmospheric and often times relaxing sound that Blizzard at Sea’s music has is due to influences and inspirations from post rock, black metal, metalcore, and doom metal. But then again, isn’t that what “atmospheric sludge” is? Although there are few bands that have been playing this style of music for quite some time, the majority of the genre’s bands are young, most with only one album or a couple of EPs and demos under their belts.

If you block out the vocals, it sounds like the type of music that would only have singing. But instead, you have primarily mid-ranged growls and yells with a few sung lines here and there. All in all, Blizzard at Sea has not only blown away the atmospheric sludge fans, but have shown me an entirely new sound. The ambient and intellectual darkness that this band has managed to craft has given this EP my score of 17/20.