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With their recent works Unearthly Trance have been referred to as the modern day Celtic Frost. When they first started out, however, they had a totally different sound and approach. They started out playing really grime and filthy blackish sludge doom, over the years they gradually softened a little bit if that's the right thing to say here and continued onwards in their own direction moving away from what they had done on their debut. This leads to a logical conclusion that Unearthly Trance have a following that is usually divided into Season of Séance, Science of Silence followers and those who think their best period lies in their future works, meaning everything that came after this. I would situate their peak around In The Red; the album that followed the debut. It took the harsh and heavy aspects of the previous album and mixed them up with what eventually would become their new sound.
Unearthly Trance have some firm rooting in the black metal scene (Thralldom is perhaps USBM best kept secret) and those influences find their way into Season of Séance, Science of Silence as well, especially in the vocal area. Season of Séance, Science of Silence is at times incredibly slow and heavy, having a kind of ritualistic sound while this guy is screaming in the background. This basically sums up Mass of the Phoenix. The screams are fairly standard and could be those of any good black metal vocalist, but where Lipynsky differentiates himself from others is with his clean vocals. They provide a melodic touch and help balance the riff based music and the excruciating heaviness. As always heavy metal revolves around the quality of riffs present and this is where Season of Séance, Science of Silence proves its worth. While the drums aren't anything spectacular on the technical level - they do manage to create this very ritualistic atmosphere - the riffs are very well performed and not in the least bit as simple as the drums.
Throughout the album there are moments where these guys decide to speed it up a little as well, mostly during shorter songs such as When Anti-Humanity Flourishes and Black Heart/Black Lung. As you might be able to tell from the song titles, this once again, deals with nothing but the most deep-seeded misanthropy. A constant theme throughout the career of Unearthly Trance. Some more Crowley inspired songs are present as well. I would suggest giving this one a try and then switch to The Trident, then make up your mind as to what camp you belong to. If you end up liking both then you are one of the fortunate souls, such as myself, who just praise everything Unearthly Trance have released up until now. A last bit of advice. If they ever happen to play somewhere in your area, then make sure you are there, because you are in for a blast!
Back when this came out, I was getting into Southern Lord Record's output and related bands. I was pretty new to doom, but have always had a taste for the genre's brand of heavy. One of the bands that created a buzz was New York's Unearthly Trance, helped in part by Stephen O)))-Malley's star power(he mixed and helped produce the album). This is their debut full length, where they combine the riffing aesthetics of funeral doom with the cold, distant, misanthropic vibes of black metal. Comparisons can be drawn to Neurosis, Eyehategod, and Celtic Frost but the album sounds like Darkthrone recorded by Steve Albini with considerable low-end. What you get is the sound of a band recorded live in the studio, pushing themselves with playing and songs at the cusp of their ability.
It was the band's unique vision and cohesion as a unit that kept this disc in my rotation. One of my biggest complaints concerning doom and riff-centric heavy music in the vein of Sabbath, is the lack of feeling. A lot of heavy bands I hear sound like down-tuned stoner groups and still retain that happy-go-lucky feel of a joy-ride and as such, sounds like rock music played in a very hot sun. Unearthly Trance take it to another level with songs like 'Mass of the Phoenix' and 'The Aftermath was Morbid' where depressive minor chords ache in squalor and disappear into silence. The weight is painful, and the tension is palpable and as silence has the power to do, is strangely sobering as your ears anticipate the next note.
The vocals must be told of, as I find a lot of metal vocalists contributions to their bands unimpressive but tolerable. Here UT front man Ryan Lipinsky uses a raspy, wail not unlike that of many black metal bands. He also mixes it up with a clean howl from time to time, that is welcome. An added bonus is that while the vocals sit atop the music of the band as metal bands do, you can hear Ryan pronouncing most of the words ( as opposed to the usual GURRGLHHGAHGAARRRGH of 'extreme' metal ). I've gotten the impression that many a metal band is going through the motions when writing lyrics concerning fantasy-laden tales of gore, rape, evil and other decidedly 'metal' topics but not so with UT. I have generally found a relevant honesty in Ryan's lyrics. Here they are rooted in black metal imagery and Crowleyian magickal concepts that appear to have been made his own. While the source material is familiar, the personal spin is endearing.
The rest of the songs are somewhere between the rollicking stomp of 'When Anti-Humanity Flourishes' and the terse doom chords of 'Raised by the Wolves'. Not a perfect album in my opinion, but fans of these particular sounds may find much to enjoy. Also, this is the only album by UT to feature such slow, sparse music. Later releases would build towards more familiar paces found in contemporary music, like rock and thrash metal/d-beat styles.
Initially I was going to give this album a C+ for the music alone, but I think the ingenuity and personality of the band coupled with the strength and evolution of their future releases push it beyond such a meager grade. Recommended.