By Matt Hinch
Reverence to Stone, the sophomore release from doom quartet Samothrace comes four years after debut, Life’s Trade. Since Reverence consists of a mere two tracks, one might wonder what took so long. However one listen to the sweeping majesty of “When We Emerged” and “A Horse of Our Own” and all is forgiven. With the two tracks clocking in at a rough 14 and 20 minutes respectively, Reverence may challenge the attention span of plenty a listener but there’s ample bands to satiate the hit-and-run crowd elsewhere. The more “immersive minded” listeners should be more than happy to let time and space lose all relevance and become absorbed into the album.
“When We Emerged” begins softly but with foreboding undertones, as if foreshadowing something. Then an earth-shaking rumble kicks in like a raging storm. Cymbal crashes of lightning flash as the ground shifts. Normalcy returns briefly before tortured screams begin the narrative of sound. It paints a picture of the power of the sea reclaiming an earthen mass. Waves batter the crumbling shores washing its existence back to the murky depths. All this destruction unfolds under the guise of triumph. One force of nature overcoming another. Uplifting riffs countering the doom and gloom. If this serves as a metaphor for society’s desire to remain within its “comfort zone”, it works very well. As we try new things, branch out, we will always feel the pull of the old, comfortable place we came from tugging at us. When we give in and return, we feel good. But that stagnant existence will lead us to our end. As much as we want to stay the course, moving forward on new paths is the way we must go. Samothrace’s menacing doom anchors that underlying realization that we may never truly be happy. As much as we try to go places and be proud to do so, we are forever mired in the everyday, always missing something. Or at the very least, feeling like we are missing something. On “When We Emerged”, this subconscious dissatisfaction is captured beautifully within soaring riffs, soul-crushing doom and vocals from the deepest chasms. The build, the crashing climax(es), and the distressing denouement encapsulates the listener and drags them below the surface to the cold and dark.
“A Horse Of Our Own” follows in the footsteps of its predecessor for the most part, drudging in down-tuned glory at geological speeds. The difference lies mainly with the guitar. Floating above the doom level, the guitar sings a mournful tune of isolation. The notes ring loud across an open plain in hopes someone will hear its cries. Somewhat bluesy at its core, the playing is heartfelt and honest. As the background rolls by, the guitar is focused internally. Until, of course, it all erupts as our character lashes out, screaming in the night. Being that the song is over 20 minutes one expects a return to a more contemplative mood. And indeed that is what we receive. The vocals being sparse (and ungodly) the real narrator is the guitar. In the quieter moments it laments sorrowfully tales of woe, as if sitting around a campfire as tumbleweed rolls by. What tortured, largely unintelligible vocals we are privy to tell a tale of selfishness and loss. Our “me first” attitude (a horse of our own) has led to excess at an unsustainable point. In our desire to obtain that “American Dream” we’ve pushed aside the less fortunate, left them to become “Charred and Steeped/Pearled and White”. And while we may have all we dreamed for, what is the cost? The cost is we’ve built our own little world centered around ourselves, our wants, our desires. Our unwillingness to share has left us on “A Horse of Our Own”, but as stated previously, we will never be happy.
These tracks (and this review) may seem long winded but I believe at times we need to slow down to really absorb what is happening. The swirling riffs, the bowel shaking doom, and outright sorrowful guitar pulls the listener into the gloom, and the emotion out of the listener. On its surface, on a purely musical level, Reverence to Stone is a fantastic journey of ups and downs, rising to heights and crashing back down to earth, riding the waves and the winds of inner discovery. Add to that lyrics which can be interpreted in more than one way and you have an outstanding doom record itself worthy of reverence. Losing yourself in Reverence to Stone is easy if you allow, and I highly (oh, that would be good too) recommend you do.
(20 Buck Spin)