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For an act that has had such a long and quite prolific career, sometimes releasing as many as five recordings in a single year (2010), Like Drone Razors Through Flesh Sphere still remains mysterious and its focus extraordinarily single-minded. This, their ninth album (ninth?! - they should be winning Grammys by now!), still follows the familiar template of extreme minimalist and abstract drone doom metal, yet on first hearing, I realised something had definitely changed: the band's concept of itself and its direction, the musician/s involved treating the project as long-term now and deserving of a wider, slightly more mainstream audience.
The major difference between this album and others of LDRTFS that I've heard - I've yet to hear all the band's albums and other recordings - is that the sound here is much clearer if less Gothic in ambience. It actually seems a little jazzy and slightly blues-oriented, probably because of the inclusion of moody piano melody. Once upon a time, this might have been the kind of recording Sunn0))) would make and the cover art showing a silhouette of a hooded figure holding a tambourine suggests as much.
After a 24-minute opener which is basically a slow build-up of tinkling piano tune and repeated riff slash, we pass into a cold creepy space-ambient world where there is rather more musical activity that explores the interaction between sound and silence. It's at this point that LDRTFS start to flag their credentials as an avant-garde experimental drone / ambient / doom metal band. The track is sculpted in a way that combines and contrasts raw noisy guitar texture, background effects, distorted guitar tones and often bombastic percussion in an ongoing deconstruction of structure, melody and rhythm. The third track has a melancholy bluesy feel as it ploughs through a prolonged series of drawn-out layers of guitar texture noise scree that start out as chord riffs. The ambience of this piece is an interesting one: all at once it sounds hopeful and open yet the heavy and sometimes off-key crashes throughout suggest continuous oppression and sadness at the unfairness of life. Apart from this though the track is very monotonous and only near the very end is there any welcome variation in the music when the drums start up a very brief rhythm set.
The concluding track is a very different beast from what I'd got used to from LDRTFS: at first it's a piano-dominated piece, again applying the repetitive minimalist template to melody and structure, while guitar is squeezed back to a decorative tone loop around the piano melody circle. In its second half, the track explodes into a dizzying chaos of pummelling drums, banshee screams and squealy guitars gone haywire. .
It's an excellent album of improvised abstract drone doom music although the changed LDRTFS showcased here has rather less individuality than the old one of cold cavernous ambience suggestive of abandoned stone churches and phantom ghosts still trespassing in them. There is probably not much here that other folks like Sunn0))), fellow doom metal Spaniards Orthodox and maybe even Deathspell Omega (especially in the second half of that last track) couldn't do, if not better. If we forget what LDRTFS used to be, then this album is an ambitiously almighty slab of drone doom metal of a particular abstract kind with jazz elements. There is old LDRTFS in the repetitive minimalism and the lengthy nature of the tracks, and there is perhaps a new LDRTFS in the process of being born.