Soothsayer. Great name for a band, actually, and a quick furtle around the Metal Archives pages shows that there has only been one before, a Canadian outfit. This Soothsayer are in fact from Ireland, and are described by their record label as “Atmospheric Doom Metal”. As it turns out, it seems that the label have got this spot on.
“At This Great Depth” is a two track album, with both songs contained within (“Umpire” and “Of Locusts and Moths”) both weighing in on the hefty side; the former at sixteen minutes, with the latter at a much more sprightly eight minutes or so. Opener, (note: can you have an “opener” on a two track album?) “Umpire” is an atmospheric piece all right, with an echoey, almost pressured and distant sound. The thin guitar sound, though I don’t use that in any pejorative sense, has a pleasing juxtaposition against the sludgey bass work and distant drums. For the first nine or so minutes of it, I at first thought to myself, “yeah, I can see myself mellowing out while this plays”, though to be completely honest I did find my attention wandering slightly. It seemed to me that although the atmospheric elements were there in aplomb, my tolerance for the lack of movement at around the six minutes mark had me fighting to hold off the “skip” button. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times that I found it hard to keep invested in something that sounded for all the world like a very extended introduction. Luckily, at about the nine minutes mark, the band decide to up the ante and have actual things happening. There are a huge amount of ideas contained within the quarter of an hour’s music here, and while I’m not opposed to progressive passages and subtle variations being the order of the day, I can’t help thinking that actually there are about half a dozen good song ideas here waiting to be developed, rather than washing into each other before they have a real chance to take hold in the ear.
Second track “Of Locusts and Moths” was a much more pleasing listen for me, with the weight and heft of the music collapsing nicely into some choral chanting and the fierce, bellowing shouts of vocalist Liam Hughes. On that point, Liam manages to squeeze out some ragged, rasping vocals, alongside sinister whispers and full-on death metal growling. It’s an impressive performance, and one which I would like to hear more fully on future releases. The production is right where you’d want it too, with an almost watery, fluid feel to it, which allows for the pressure and release dynamic of the music to come across really well.
It’s not a bad listen, all in all, but I did find that the first track really outstayed it’s welcome. Give me half a dozen tracks of six to eight minutes each a piece, and then I think Soothsayer will have much more impact. As it is, it has its moments, but is never anything like approaching essential.
(6/10 Chris Davison)