Remember the two instrumental prelude tracks on Cult of Luna’s ‘Eternal Kingdom’ – ‘Österbotten’ and ‘Ugín’? Remember the deep seated sense of anxiety they induced, by bolstering already dark and sinister sounding music with choking, dread filled atmosphere? Imagine if the rest of the tracks on that record were taken away and every song followed the same dynamic as ‘Österbotten’ and Ugín’ – imagine that, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what French instrumental four-piece Caldera sound like. The band have a relatively low profile the world over, however, they are a big name in doom and sludge circles in their home country. Starting out in 2001 under the moniker of Dragonfly, the band then switched to Caldera (a cauldron-like volcanic feature usually formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption). In their 14 years of existence the quartet have put out three demos and two full lengths – ‘Centralia’ is their first EP and first release in four years, despite it being recorded way back in 2012.
‘Centralia’ was mastered by Mel Dettmer (Earth, Witch Mountain, Burning Witch, Sunn O))) and Eagle Twin) which speaks volumes about the clarity of the production quality. Each note really jumps right out at you with crystal clear precision. Centralia is a borough and a near-ghost town in Columbia County, Pennsylvania, United States. Its population has dwindled from over 1,000 residents in 1981 to seven in 2013 as a result of the Centralia mine fire that has been burning beneath the borough since 1962. Centralia is the least-populated municipality in Pennsylvania. The first track of this two-song EP is the title track and it is every bit as bleak as its subject matter suggests. There’s an echo of desperation running throughout the guitars that amplifies your inner sense of loneliness and plucks at the heart strings. This 13-minute epic is awash with emotion, most of which err on the side of melancholy.
The second track is a reimagining of ‘Garden of Love’ by San Francisco based modern classical chamber unit Amber Asylum. Although Caldera don’t come close to capturing the beauty of the original song, their cover is a more than adequate attempt and the sorrowful sounding guitars perfectly convey the sadness this song encompasses.
It’s clear to see that this EP has been thoughtfully and lovingly crafted, with both songs twining together perfectly to create 22 minutes of the saddest music you’re likely to hear from a doom metal band this year.
(7/10 Angela Davey)