Tribe of Suns

Following up an EP (I) and an LP (II), English sludgy, post-rockers Archelon drop their 2nd full-length platter, Tribe of Suns upon the masses courtesy of the venerable Sludgelord Records imprint.  Self-professed children of the Neurosis/Isis/Pelican/Burst/Rosetta school of head-tripping, introspective doom-y rock these shrouded heavies do enough interesting stuff with the style to make it count on this record.  Whenever they’re not indulging in psychedelic textures, clean arrangements and varying vocal approaches, they’re going toe to toe with giant sloth riffage, cog breaking rhythms and enough abrasive tactical strategizing to make them stand out from the basic bitch shoe staredowners that really cropped up in number post-Isis’ Panopticon.

Things get started with an austere, autumnal drone soon diving beneath the depths of watery guitar chords and dreary bass lines on the intro of opener, “Man is an Artifact.”  Atmospheric cymbal taps glide into a throbbing beat livened up by some jazzy fill fluxes as the melodies continue to build; the suffocating haze creeping the coastline like an eerie, spectral fog.  A fitting sample that sounds familiar but alien appropriately speaks of man’s pollution and destruction of the Earth and cosmos.  At 2:53 Jon and Craig lock into an overlapping dual riff that leaves one guitar to send a dirty riff plummeting from the heavens while the other paints the heavenly threshold with melodies.  Leads splinter off into the darkness with a split personality between My Bloody Valentine styled white noise scaling and spacey Matt Talbot (Hum) themed big riff bends n’ astral grooves.  TJ brings an avalanche down on his snares while double-kicking or quickly single-kicking the shit out of his pedals for a climactic, ivory tusked charge to the finish line.  Vocals don’t make an appearance till the very end and they were surprising in their limber, melodic soar; powerfully performed but not overly dramatic with just a light touch of sneering, background screams buried deep in the mix.  A solid opener, through and through…

My favorite tune on the record, the title track, is up next and it brings an altogether different aura to the brainstem.  It’s got a surging, dirty riff driving it along at a pretty speedy clip with a pebble chewin’, sandpaSludper rough Lemmy intonation to the vocals.  This is honestly reminding more of some later Amebix material or even Tau Cross’ first record than simply Cult of Luna or later period Isis.  Ed supports the guitars’ constant army quelling mortarfire with plenty of rumbling, ground-quaking lows to keep the enemy troops off their feet and in the trenches as an economical, punk rock percussiveness rolls in with the tanks.  One guitar will occasionally step out in front of the other by pushing a few greasy, melodic licks to the forefront.  Some mean ass, caveman crumpling sludge riffs halt the pacing to a filthy mud wallow as the guitars do some harmonic intertwining for a really unique and intoxicating effect.  The killer doom-y grooves subside into feedback, soft psychedelic textures and a hypnotic, mantra-like bass line that holds the mind in place as vocal whispers emanate from beneath the glowing swamplights.  This segment goes for quite a longtime, continually layering more moss and aquatic musical flickers with each passing second before returning in the form of a village wiping flood that starts off as a wall of doom-y riffing then progresses into a precision, talon drawn eye plucker of a guitar harmony supported by a fatal rhythmic beak to the soft part of the throat.  The Moby Dick kickin’ “Jonah” relishes repetitive, lucid bass oscillations alongside its cyclically gear spinning and cog turning guitar figures.  New notes appear at random until TJ cracks into a snare build-up that drags a Pequod full of pretty noise-guitar gems, melodically howled vocal shipwrecks and busy, 70s prog-styled snare/tom fill harpoons up from the briny deep.  Winding white-noise spires erupt from the blowhole of the beast as a tough rhythm and surgical doom-inspired riffs soon dive even further down where the angler fish and alien underwater foliage light the way to begotten sunken cities that were probably brought down thanks to the double-bass surges, noisy prog-doom riff/leads, sucking bass whirlpools and the guttural Davy Jones’ drowned hardcore vocal bellows.  “A Dried Ocean” almost feels like a short extension to “Jonah” as it assembles its opening ripples and immediately following rising tides of space-rock guitar shriek cool, calmly and collectedly.  Set to a tribal tom beat this jam stops the distortion, then starts again on a cleanly plucked acoustic mediation with distant rhythms and buried vocal screams/whispers drenching the vibe in threatening silence.

9+ minute album centerpiece “Destroyer” is a ride n’ a half, nagging me heavily of Burst’s prime work circa Prey on Life and Origo.  It’s a real behemoth and probably dirtier than the Swedish maestros for certain.  Ed’s slinking, Am-Rep toned bass is caked in grime, gloom and doom as the guitarwork applies a melodic scald to an open wound and the vocals continue across a gruff snakeskin slithering drawl.  Vast, expansive sludge riffing follows, keeping it within the heavier confines of the genre and rendering the material more lowdown and rotten than post-doom band #5234 in the process.  Squally, ascending noise guitar blasts intersect heathen doom riffs and apocalyptic drumming with the music reaching a particularly weighty midpoint plateau; a plateau that also returns as the tune’s endnote but not until a leisurely, wandering psychedelic section crams your headspace with aural drugs.  “Hollow Gloom” is the record’s most knuckle-dragging dirge; a hulking more traditional sludge jam that sets thing up for a sparse n’ ambient instrumental closer in “The River’s” tranquil, 6-stringed shark waters.

Tribe of Suns is a very worthy and respectable post-doom/sludge outing that packs more muscle than your everyday, Average Joe modern Isis clones.  Thanks to some tooth-gnashing musical violence, raw vocals and a solid amount of variety Archelon both reminds me of the formative and most powerful days of the genre while putting the band shoulder to shoulder with the greats of the new age.  Certainly worth a check if you like a good mix of brain and brawn within the style.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
July 11th, 2018


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