What’s in a name? Having formed in 2008 you’d imagine that, had this Peterborough post-rock unit called themselves Fluvial or Miasma Theory [insert your own evocative sobriquet here], you’d imagine that they’d have been gracing a major label a lot sooner than January of this year. Instead, having consulted Schott’s Almanac “annual awards” section, they plumped for the odd, yet alerting moniker of Pet Slimmers Of The Year. It may not seem a fit match for their music, but it always guarantees a chuckle.
Formed from the ashes of prog-metallers A Thousand Fires, they have taken their time writing, touring and building contacts and now, with a little help from their producer, Devil Sold His Soul’s Jonny Renshaw, they feel finally ready to drop this immense debut album on us. It’s a work that combines the abundant colours and rich vastness of Pelican’s layering and the melancholic tones and industrial fervour of Russian Circles. This of course is all mere groundwork emotion when compared to the way that the music both leaps out of the speakers at you and yet also slips so deftly into your subconscious. Honestly, the album sounds more like finding the middle ground between the twin majesties of Isis and Junius. Time and again you’ll hear these behemoths emerging from the gloom like two ships drifting inexorably towards each other through dense fog.
Following the gentle echoing groundwork laid by “Arterias”, they ramp up the layering, establish a solid groove and throw in some Russian Circles-esque skiddy strings for “Gathering Half The Deep And Full Of Voices”. Next up, they establish their range. No sooner has “Tides” taken us floating up into the ether and offered a featherlight touch none to dissimilar to that exhausted by Devin’s Ghost, then they drop us down into the black, boiling ocean of “Mare Imbrium”. It is here amongst the crush of the waves where they find their artistic zenith. As menacing as the mid-section of The Ocean’s Pelagial, as visceral as Isis’ Wavering Radiant, the surges of power and dark purpose take us crashing through every trough and every peak.
As a mainly instrumental band, they do use vocals sparingly (on tracks 1, 5 and 8) and merely as a soft, emotion-soaked extra instrument and one can’t help but feel slight disappointment at a trick missed. Most certainly, you can only imagine the extra dimension that an Aaron Harris-type earth-splitting roar could add to the mix. Instead, they err on the side of shuffling their way through the songs which offers the worrying potential of finding themselves lost within the absolute swathe of post-everything miserabilists out there. “Days Since I Disappeared”, for instance, wallows too long in its own melancholia and comes within a raw scream from taking them down that well-traveled road. Of course, they seem quite capable of saving themselves from this potent threat by stirring in songs like “Churning Of The Sea Of Milk” (clearly the bastard son of Isis’ “Not In Rivers, But In Drops”) and “La Tormenta” (another riotous stormer with a strong early grip and a broken, edgy quality).
Although the flow of the album is exceptional, Pet Slimmers do need to find more variation from somewhere. They seem at their most comfortable when they are offering up pounding gristle to chew upon. It’s only in these heaviest moments that their music seems to come alive. In the long run though, this classy trio have still managed to produce something exciting and beguiling. Fragments Of Uniforms is a magnificent, mouthwatering long-player and I for one will be desperate to see how this all translates to the live arena.
(8/10 John Skibeat)