I must begin by saying that the hardest part for me here was thinking on how could I begin this review. I could start in so many ways... but I guess I'll just open my chest out for you and try to explain in some words the impact this new album, "Blackflower", from UK's atmospheric sludge band Sonance had (ands still has) on me.
I clearly remember the day when Ben (Sonance) messaged me saying they had a new album out. I was stoked. Mostly because their debut album "Like Ghosts" left some deep scars on me. "Like Ghosts" was a beautiful beast, an amazing chimera that left me in complete awe and my expectations on a sequel to their work, clearly left me very anxious. Mostly because I didn't know what to expect from them. What really overwhelms me is the perfect timing how, no matter how low or high you might be, how that specific album or music can really touch so deep into you that leaves goosebumps all over your body. This was my case. At this point, due to several aspects in my life being happening at the same time, I was struggling inside, trying not to breakdown. Until "Blackflower" showed up.
The first thing I noticed was the number of songs, five. Unlike "Like Ghosts" where we had only two colossal tracks. This raised even more the bar for my curiosity. The songs I got from Ben were in no particular order, so I started by listening to "Belgium". Outside my window, the day was cold and gray, and rain poured endlessly and as the first notes started to pour down into my soul that was already with slits it almost shattered into one thousand pieces.
I was absolutely carried away by the gentle power and melody embodied in the guitar notes that embraced by the warmness and caressing string arrangement, completely hit down inside of me and mirrored exactly what I was feeling at that point. So it was hard to keep my posture. The atmosphere in "Belgium" is smooth and beautiful. It feels almost like, for those who have the sensitivity to it, as looking into this beautiful painting. It sparkles these thin, warm rays of light, soft and melancholic notes that create this cozy and warm feeling inside. At the same time I immediately realized and thought to myself: "These blokes did it again."
But this album is not all about melancholy, sadness and other related and inherent feelings. No.
What I really enjoy about Sonance, besides their brilliant knack in creating and performing music like this, is their ability to balance the heaviness of genres like sludge and doom, that is basically the core here, with the melody pulled out from the most post-rock, atmospheric side of metal. What I'm trying to say is that aren't many bands making this type of formula nowadays. I can remember bands like Mouth of The Architect or even Rosetta for example. But Sonance are absolute brilliant in taking all of these influences and shaping them into the music we can find in "Blackflower".
The main track of the album is "Belgium/Blackflower", a 15 minute maelstrom that just like a misty morning, begins by slowly unveiling the light within. It features the same notes as the instrumental "Belgium" but here it acquires another shape, more complex, more structured. We're just simply carried by it along its slow, gentle notes that oscillate building up into this crescendo where layers of instruments are added almost every single minute, the guitar, the drum, the bass, the strings until they're all in line and everything collapses into this fierce curtain of decibels, pulling us from that warm and cozy initial landscape where we started from, to this crushing, dark storm. Within the realm of sludge, where we are now, I dare say that the main influence here, soundwise, are Neurosis. It's inevitable not thinking of them, if you have well trained ears, when you hear the whole set of guitars, drum and bass all perfectly aligned together marching and crushing, pointing at the same direction. The vocals are relentless as they spew all that despair and rage as expected in this kind of record, on top of that wall of decibels creating this thick mass of sludge metal.
Another of my favorites is "Attachment". Once again Sonance, pulls off those amazing feelings of sadness, solitude and melancholy. This time all wrapped up into layers of drone guitar. No drum or any kind of beat marks its presence here. There's just no need. It all evolves into this crescendo of strings, where anguished screams can be heard from very far away, culminating into this climax that give way to "Conical". The pummeling and almost industrial beat marks the rhythm, crushing our eardrums with these slabs of thick and ugly sludgy riffs. It feels like we're inside of some kind of bestial mechanism that moves at a very sluggish pace, crushing everything and everyone in its path.
And the best way to close the way is nothing more than with "Tearce". A more introspective and atmospheric track. No vocals, no drums, no rage. Just a haunting wall of atmosphere. A side of Sonance that they seem quite to appreciate, as we heard it too on the Side B of "Like Ghosts". This band truly nurtures a feeling for experimentation as they're not afraid to try new things. And the thing is that works really well into their sound. This track is quite drone almost making me think of some The Angelic Process or Nadja track.
Once again the band outdid themselves with "Blackflower". An amazing album that joins the best of two worlds, the melody and heaviness. This formula isn't new, it's true. But the real secret lies on how you blend them and how is the final result. The gentle and the beast. Smiles and tears. The Yin and Yang. The tracks are simply beautiful, they fit all perfectly in this record and I love them all as an only son. I must also underline that this album was all produced by Sonance themselves. So to them I take my hat off. Stellar job lads.
I truly hope this gets a physical format soon, I know it will. To seek more information about Sonance, just head over to their Facebook page. Sonance will perform also on Temples Festival later this year, so it's another reason for you to not miss them live. In the meantime, stream or download this amazing album on the link below and support the band by giving any donation, buy merch. They truly deserve it.