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i blind bought this out of a bargain bin - 90%

RapeTheDead, December 5th, 2019

I’ve recently come to realize that Isis objectively put forth some of the most groundbreaking ideas i’ve ever heard (no, not that ISIS, you dolt). Something about the combination of drifting ambiance, basic but ever-so-slightly syncopated beats and a lot of low-key funky as hell bass riffs just gets me going and as I age the effect it has only seems to magnify. Basically I think i’m a post-metal fanboy and it took me a long time to internally realize that.

Better late than never, I guess, but the progression of that realization was definitely slowed by the fact that most post-metal I encountered didn’t have any of the intangibles that make Isis so brilliant. There’s a couple of gems (like The Flight of Sleipnir) that manage to balance minimalism with total immersion in sound and atmosphere, but by and large I find most sludge, post-rock, doom, and fusions thereof that have been lumped into the “post-metal” subgenre don’t have anywhere near the same vibe. Maybe it’s just because of the amount of genre fusion going on, but I find bands that often get recommended in the same breath as Isis (Neurosis, Pelican, Cult of Luna, The Ocean, iunno how many more examples you need me to pull from the “similar artists” tab to think I know my shit) don’t feel the same, and often they’re not even trying to go for something similar. I greatly enjoy some of the bands I mentioned, others are meh, but none of them quite reach that atmosphere I seek. Post-metal is a pretty nebulous, hazily-defined umbrella genre without a clear aesthetic or direction.

What i’m getting at with all this is that when post-metal is on, it’s legitimately some of the best shit you’ve ever heard, but it’s almost never on. Too often, post-metal falls back on familiar tropes of sludge or hardcore and isn’t as focused on the atmosphere, or when atmosphere is the focus the band lack the instrumental skill and songwriting prowess to pull it off, so it falls flat and doesn’t evoke any sort of emotion. Anyways, on to the band this review is actually about.

Glare of the Sun’s surface characteristics offer little more than your stock post-metal band typically does. There’s some lingering, ominous keyboard, very sparse and simplistic drumming, and choppy, booming chords that never play anything resembling an intricate lead. It sounds like no one in the band is into prog at all, despite playing in a genre with some progressive leanings. They replaced its usual spot in the music with heaps of wistful, European melancholy that gives off some serious later Katatonia vibes - go listen to “Circle” if you’re skeptical. To top it all off, there’s a fuckload of doom in the slow, booming delivery of everything. Every moment is very carefully placed, and the band has a lot of dead space hanging about the music, which sometimes seems intentional but other times it almost sounds like the guitarist had to remember which riff came next for a second. When you’re already playing in a style devoid of technical showmanship and complexity, it only stands out more. Too often it sounds like bands settle on doom as a fallback for atmosphere as an excuse for not having enough ideas to write long songs, and sure enough, the songs on Soil tend to slowly develop one theme at a time, letting it grow and grow before it has exhausted its welcome and the next theme begins to build.

Glare of the Sun has all of the trappings that your standard dime-a-dozen post-metal has, and by extension they should naturally fail to evoke that beautiful, intangible atmosphere. But here’s the twist: they don’t suck. Everything about their aesthetic, musicianship, songwriting choices, all of it points to a shit band, but in my several listens’ worth of review preparation with this album, I found myself less bored each time. The fuck?

I have no other choice but to conclude Glare of the Sun has “it”. That ineffable quality I spent a bunch of time at the beginning trying to get at, but they took a completely different route getting there. Instead of creating songs that wander to greater heights, Glare of the Sun wrote music that stays firmly where it is put, adding an extra layer of depth with every new iteration of a riff. Instead of a using a wistful, philosophical melancholy to create emotion, Glare of the Sun have a bit more of a sense of...certainty in their sorrow (probably just the doom influence). Instead of frequent syncopation and weird timings, this has a very steady 4/4 feel to it. Yet somehow, the same atmosphere arises, and it is all in the conviction and purpose that lays behind every emphatic chord. Simplistic as the riffs are, every jutting, choppy note crashes in as if it absolutely needed to be played. The lyrics don’t really mean much of anything when you read them in isolation, but when you hear the passion that somehow bleeds out of the vocalist’s wet rasp and clear enunciation, the words somehow take on a whole new depth. When you put it all together, the most stunning aspect of Soil is that it takes the scraps and spare parts no one else wanted in their songs - the long, droning sections, the whispering and crooning vocals, all of it - and somehow built a near-masterpiece. Consider me a new fan of these guys, and consider this one of the best blind purchases I’ve made in months.