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Making an album that sounds pretty much the same for its entirety is a risky endeavour. Before we get into the bad, let's look at what it takes for this to go over well. Especially in the metal realm, a largely unchanging album can sound good if it has a hypnotic quality – a sound that draws you in and allows you to lose yourself in it. This is most prominent in black metal (especially that with a strong Burzum influence) and funeral doom. It is, however, completely viable in the type of extreme doom that March Into The Sea play. Another way in which a samey album can sound good is if the songs are just such high quality that the sameness of it all doesn't matter. The most obvious example in the rock realm would be AC/DC's Back in Black. There are also a fair amount of examples in the metal world, such as Crowbar's Sonic Excess In Its Purest Form.
At first glance it may seem that March Into The Sea might fit into the first category – having such a hypnotic sound that the refusal to experiment beyond a very specific template doesn't matter. Take a two minute sample from any of these songs and it sounds pretty cool. Their deep, cavernous scum-laden sound is nothing to scoff at. However cool this sound is, a whole album of them not really doing anything with it isn't exactly the most enthralling experience. Besides perhaps the occasional increase in tempo, Church of the Voidswimmer is pretty much the same regardless of what song you're listening to.
The worst thing about all this is that I really wanted to like the band. Their name is awesome. I know everyone from Modest Mouse to Pelican has used the phrase, but regardless it still sounds damn cool. Apparently the band has changed it's name to, I kid you not – Urine. While that somewhat ridiculous name does fit the band's filthy sound, it does seem like a waste of a great band name. The cover for this album also got me interested in checking the band out. The black and white photograph of trees is simultaneously beautiful and haunting. The track names for this album are also very well done, and fit in with the atmosphere established by the band's name and the album cover. In the end, the non-musical components to this album are actually the coolest things about it.
March Into The Sea play a style of extreme doom. While I wouldn't go as far to call it “torture” doom, there is a lot here that fans of that sub-genre will like. Their sound is very scummy while simultaneously being somewhat atmospheric. There does seem to be a vague crust punk influence, most apparent in the grimy, guttural vocals. The band downtunes heavily and isn't too big on faster tempos. Snail paced riffs make up the vast majority of this album, with one riff continuing for what seems like an eternity. The same thing can be said about the album – while it doesn't breach the 50 minute mark, it feels like it endures for well over an hour. This does not bode well for the band, as listening can grow to be somewhat tedious as the album drags on. This album features elements of drone, which shouldn't be all that surprising seeing as the music moves at a glacial pace.
The album does possess some atmospheric qualities, although they are not convincing enough for the album to take on a hypnotic grace. This does not really mean the inclusion of many quieter mellow passages; the whole album does have a lot of room to breathe and does have a certain atmosphere about it. Albatross, the albums starting track, does have a bit of a mellow intro, which is not entirely characteristic of the rest of the album. The deep, contaminated vocals are somewhat layered, with a delay effect on the slow growls being a constant throughout the album's endurance. The riffs aren't especially interesting, but are not at all bad. They just do what they do, neither excelling or abysmally failing. Likewise, the drumming isn't anything special, plodding along to back the guitar. The drums are played in a typical style, but are done competently and neither add very much or take anything away from the music.
While not horrible, this release certainly isn't essential listening for extreme doom fans. Church of the Voidswimmer is too repetitive to maintain interest and the atmosphere isn't successful in creating a hypnotic effect. All in all, this isn't a very memorable affair. This sort of thing has been done before and with much better results. While this album can go well with a very specific mood, there are other releases that can hit that same spot a lot better. While not a disastrous listen, I highly doubt I will have the urge to listen to this much in the future.