Reverence is the fourth release from Sheffield based post-metal band Ba’al. An EP comprised of three tracks and their first with vocalist Joe Stamps, genres as diverse as black metal, doom, sludge and ambient are incorporated effortlessly into their evolving sound.
Discordant feedback introduces the opening track ‘Grief Tourist’ before exploding into black metal style rasping vocals, grinding melody and blast-beats. It’s not long before it takes its first unconventional turn – fluidly moving into a breakdown, characterised by a resonating baleful riff and Gregorian style vocals, evoking an almost religious, sombre atmosphere. This muted, reflective tone then moves into a chugging riff, with guttural vocals and slower tempo, maintaining a sludgy march. When it reaches its crescendo with rasped vocals and a morose wailing melody it slips into another breakdown, featuring fluttering hi-hat and symbol hits. A prominent bass-line and clean guitar wind in and out of the distorted guitar-work which concludes with an emotive burst of pained vocals that fade into discordance.
The title track, ‘Reverence’ is the strongest work on the EP. Ambient in nature, it’s less diverse than ‘Grief Tourist’ and mainly uses the soulful resonance of the guitar and ghostly keening synth, highly reminiscent of Aphex Twin‘s Rhubarb (Ambient Works Vol.1) all to captivating effect. The result is a stirring piece of music that absorbs the listener with its simplicity and sense of fleeting emotion.
‘Sepia’ initially builds on from the slow soulful guitar-work that characterised Reverence, introducing a jazz-like drum beat that encapsulates an opening of gathering tension. An explosive release of sludgy groove follows and slowly evolves into the intense black metal sound that defines the climaxes of the EP. ‘Sepia’s height is unrelenting shrieked vocals, blasting drums and visceral guitar, burning away with symphonic overtones as the track gradually reduces to anguished vocals proclaiming “We don’t know what is real”, bringing to mind like the crust-punk purveyors Dystopia.
With projects as experimental as this usually spread over a twelve or thirteen track album, it’s impressive to see such a diverse medley of influences being present in such a tight format. With a captivating array of style and technique coupled with fluid progression, Reverence moves from black metal to sludge via ambience with ease and is a perfect example of how much of an absorbing listen Ba’al can be.
Reverence is out 24th May and can be purchased here
Words: Omur Sowar