Amber Asylum
Sin Eater

 

The multi-instrumentalist Kris Force and her spacey juggernaut, vapor trail institution Amber Asylum has over 20 years in the music world and stints on known labels such as Relapse, Neurot and Profound Lore for a reason.  Never once in the group’s career have they compromised their vision.  While the “band’s” line-up is often changing, the players are always the perfect set for the task at hand.  On the Asylum’s latest opus Sin Eater patience will be tested and rewarded, short attention spans will be crushed into a putty-like substance and only those with a mindset for intricate, deeply layered psychedelia will make it out through the other side alive.  This is not a track skipping album.  Sin Eater is a record that you listen to from the first note to the last…tripped out fans that can behind the work of Jarboe, Swans, Jesu, 27 and Subarachnoid Space should understand exactly what Force and company bring to the table.

Daunting, 11+ minute opening cut “Perfect Calm” refuses to rush its reveal of the music’s most precious of diamond sharp treasures.  Haunted house drones are eerie and brooding as keyboards and a supremely low-mixed cello makes its impact known.  The haunting ebb tide slowly cascades to shore with subtle strokes of the violin as cello and synthetic gleam cast light upon an atmosphere of ultimate foreboding darkness.  Chanted vocals whispered from the depths of a mausoleum provide additional instrumentation as opposed to acting as a lead verbal element.  This is music to get lost in the forest on while load on 7 grams of mushrooms.  The volume of the drone rises to a deliberate, gothic funeral procession where druid carry a coffin into the woods backed by a rising tide of violins, dirge-like percussion and small swells of instrumental texture.  When speaking of the climax, the crashing plunder is almost Neurosisian in scope but it’s much more downplayed and elegant than anything that the atmospheric thundermakers every tinker with.

“Beast Star” develops a plummeting, morphine-drip beat early on in the proceedings while the string mini-orchestra enriches the progressive atmosphere in sorrowful violins and abyssal cellos.  Force’s vocals are a more prominent feature this time around, crafting a genuinely gorgeously melody around the multi-tracked instruments, throbbing bass notes and overwhelming textures.  There are so many atmospheric nuances going for the ears to sink into at any one time that it’s sometimes quite difficult to decide on which to follow (hence the necessitation of multiple listens).  Dueling violins summon a harmonic effect that builds to a solo moment that sets up the entire band to come in with percussive bombast, dominant keyboards and even some guitar to round things out.  Keep in mind that the sound is so hallucinatory that I could very well be botching a descriptive element or two, so please don’t hang me at the gallows!  The pastoral flavors and field wandering ending remind me of Harvestman’s work only from a different psychedelic dominion.  “TOT” enters on the haunches of a disgustingly thick, sludgy bass line before the crystalline strings make their presence known.

The drumming in this piece is also booming (beginning as a battlefield drum march) and goes for more apocalyptic decimation than any of the previous cuts.  Kris’ voice is rife with passion, lush in depth and hitting every rise n’ fall with masterful, mountain-high dynamics.  If there was ever such a thing as a symphony or orchestra that played end of the world doom-metal, “TOT” may very well be the only living example of such.  This sucker really knows how to pile on the bombast and that bass tone alone gets props for maintaining such a swampy, lurching foundation.  Distortion is either applied to the guitar or the violin for a fucked-up, freaked-out atmosphere akin to psychedelic psycho 60s freaks High Tide and whenever the song launches into a full-speed, aggressive onslaught with pummeling drums and reckless tempos, I get even further flavors of 60s psyche accumulating in the juice of my mouth (watch the jokes, sickos!).  For my money this piece is unstoppable and the best thing I’ve heard from Amber Asylum to date; the kind of track where you grab a friend and say “Shut up and listen to this shit!”

A lengthy, autumnal drone kicks off “Harvester” which is one of the slowest building tracks on the record.  A good minute and a half passes before formless, wordless vocal chants glide gently against minimalist cellos and violins.  Call n’ response vocals echo and delay back and forth conjuring an ethereal incantation that takes shape over as little music possible; a leaden beat kicks in lockstep but never pushes things further than a deathbed pulse.  This one casts subdued, heavily-layered, arcane magic throughout but manages to pick up into a hearty gallop before the curtain draws to a close.  Thundering, cyclic drum patterns and buoyant bass thickness anchor the majority of the succinct “Paean” while the cellos, violins and mystical textures entrench the brain waves in a hypnotic jam that never strays far from its beaten path.  Spending nearly 6 shrieking minutes of broken keyboards, de-strung violins/cellos and an overall sheen of piercing noise, “Executioner” belligerently fights its instinct to become an outright song for quite a long period of time.  Even when the vocals come seeping in through the haze, the musicality stays unstructured and obtuse before a surging, ship-sinking plunder of grumbling bass, tidal instrumental layers and violent post-rock swallows the crew whole.  The title track caps the album off and it’s pure drone from fathoms deep, whether investing itself in bass-y, buzzing textures that hint at melody or bleeding eardrums with some of the record’s highest, most eardrum penetrating frequencies it finds a way to get into your head and stay there.

Amber Asylum’s Sin Eater is 100% not for everybody but fans that have followed the band since their inception should find some of their finest work here.  As for newcomers looking for experimental malice, angular beauty or slow-motion psychedelia, Sin Eater will deliver everything you want and more.  Simply put, I can’t name a record that sounds like this and it makes for a great listen late at night with a fuckin’ killer set of headphones.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
January 28th, 2016

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