It’s been a while. Six years since their last full length and ten since I last crossed paths with Unearthly Trance. As my losing touch was accidental (money, time, health) rather than deliberate it’s good to know where they are on album number six. The heavy, rough riff and vocals on first song ‘Into The Spiral’ assure me all is well; rhythmic, almost grimy old death metal riff and a suffocating atmosphere, dipping into a Neurosis style intensity as it finds a melodic passage before crashing into the chaotic closing bars. ‘Dream State Arsenal’ follows, slower and pounding and the basic but effective and evocative Unearthly Trance template is established.
What we have, really, is primordial doom/death, mostly sludge free and so blackened around the edges it’s turned to carbon. They have a talent, a real touch, for an ominous presence, for oppressive occult atmospheres with a black twist of these cosmic. There’s a real aggression too on songs like ‘Scythe’ even as the strained melody, kind of reminiscent of first album Paradise Lost simply as a reference point, stalk around the riff.
This is, rather like Irish band Vircolac in attitude but not sound, both determinedly old school but still wonderfully vibrant and fresh. They also have a genuine feel for dynamic tension, having that Neurosis feel for finding the intensity in quiet sparse notes, the ominous approaching something slips between the notes. For me, ‘Lion Strength’ perhaps steps a little too close to that style and the lyrical sounds but I’m sure others won’t agree.
On the other hand, ‘Invisible Butchery’ with its ponderous slabs of blackened doom/death and perfectly gnarled sound is the kind of song that makes Unearthly Trance so worth listening to: Grim, bleak, crushing primitiveness. ‘The Great Cauldron’ begins with a simple, brutal, rising riff that suddenly slows, gathers breath into its tarred, leather lungs and surges once more and then throws some frightening clean vocals at you, wrapped in a haunting melodic twist. It’s quite magnificent. The album then closed with a slow, melodic soundscape, a perfect aftermath to the brutality that came before.
There you have it. Unearthly Trance. Crushing, atmospheric and malevolent as ever. Nice to have them back haunting my dreams indeed.