By Laina Dawes
A bit of back-story: I was fortunate enough to catch Salome perform as part of the South By South West Music Festival this past spring. People let rivulets of sweat roll down their faces as they stood in absolute silence (and strangely frozen) in awe of what they were witnessing, shoulder-to-shoulder in the Austin, Texas club. I stood alongside fellow Hellbound contributor, Jay Gorania and watched in amazement as the band, consisting of vocalist Kat, guitarist Rob Moore and drummer Aaron Deal effortlessly created the most intense live experience I have ever witnessed.
There was palatable thickness in the air as people encircled the tiny patch of floor that the trio occupied – so tiny that audience members were standing directly in front of Deal’s cymbals and you had to look twice to find Moore, who seemed to blend into the audience. Perhaps out of respect but most likely intimidation, people steered clear of the diminutive Kat who was hunched over, completely oblivious to the others in the room, alternately howling in pain and perhaps, sheer rage. After the set, Kat told me that they were working on what would be Terminal, and I have been anticipating whether they could bottle the intensity of their live performance within a recording. I’m relieved and excited to report that they have..…in spades.
Unlike what most ill informed people think of Doom / Stoner metal…that the sub-genre is only useful as an musical accompaniment to smoking copious amounts of marijuana, the Virginia based-band makes you reconsider simplistic boxes and labels. While Terminal does contain the prerequisite bottom-heavy riffs, fills and attention to spacial qualities – sections that beg the listener to pay attention – there is a modern quality, a crispness to Deal’s and Moore’s musicianship that does not have that ‘sludgy’ sound. This is simply not doom, for doom’s sake. The silences and the spats of ‘noise’ are too intricate and meaningful to be dismissed as bouts of electronic programming, as they beg the listener to pause and ponder.
On the opener “The Message” the track is introduced with about a minute of what sounds like loopings of electronic waves, gently accelerating and then slowing down and interspersed with metallic pings, making the listener wait in anticipation until Moore and Deal overtake it. Throughout the entire seven-track album, Kat’s vocals – used more as a unique instrument, accentuating and deepening the bands message and aesthetic, change as rapidly as much of the tempos of the music, alternating between a fervent shrill urgency and a unnatural, yet unmistakable growl that is clearly coming from the pit of her stomach. In some ways deceptively simplistic, but there is a richness, almost an unsettling heaviness that is there.
The vocal overlapping of her gravelly shriek of “terrify!” on “Terminal” layered over guttural bellows, matched with Deal’s cymbals that accentuate what seems like her every bark, will make the hair stand up on your arms. Funnily enough, Slayer’s “Reign in Blood” came to mind on the incredible “Epidemic” as the popular riff is bookmarked between brief tribal-like drums, then quickly switches to a quick interlude of old-school punk stylings and then slowly, almost painfully descends downwards into some of the heaviest – sonically and emotionally – beats and growls I’ve heard on an album this year. The track is long and full of ebbs and flows, at times delving so low, the listener is made to feel a bit queasy.
The only drawback to Terminal is that you have to be patient – very patient, as there is a message there that ties the tracks together – but it will take a few listens to understand it. The majority of “An Accident of History” consists of not only the noise that introduces the album, but is layered with additional sounds and voices. On first listen, this doesn’t make much sense and I fear that it might turn off those who are wondering why this track is there. But Salome’s second full-length is definitely worth the patience and the introspection, and a very strong contender to be on the top of many “Best Album” lists this year…can’t wait to see them perform Terminal live in 2011.
Rating: 9.5 / 10