For over fifteen years, Belfast’s Slomatics have been responsible for producing a near constant universal throb of low, buzzing riffs. Their towering discography and rare, natural phenomena-like live shows have left a wake of ruined amps and shattered eardrums, as well as cementing their position as ‘the doom band’s doom band’.
Canyons, the band’s sixth full-length offering, comes off the back of their trilogy of conceptually linked records, and sees the band ready to experiment with their tried and tested formula. That said, expect no grand deviations here – this is still Slomatics, so expect ponderous riffs and mighty fuzz aplenty.
Opener ‘Gears Of Despair’ fades in with warm, buzzing feedback before the main riff emerges from nowhere, bolstered by the pulsing kick of a wearied drum shuffle. Echo drenched vocals glide in across the void as the track takes on a dignified, processional groove, slowly swinging over tom heavy drums and resting on unhurried repetition. Opening out into a heavenly, cosmic chorus and ringing chords, the pace starts to build before descending into phasing notes. ‘Cosmic Guilt’ ambles along on leaden feet, hissing cymbals doing battle with shouted vocals that soar into clean harmonies. Elsewhere, drums skitter under fat guitars, interspersed with stuttering noise and frustrated growls before lapsing back into the song’s main riff.
‘Seven Echoes’ features wavering guitars rising steadily over lopping drums, a brief caesura that pitches into space over rushing cymbals. ‘Telemachus My Son’ is wonderfully organic, towed by an irresistible groove and distant synths, cutting into a drudging chug and some 80’s thrash yelps. Drums thread through the track, constantly anchoring it into a steady descent as the murderous locked in palm muting threatens to take off.
‘Beyond The Canopy’ rumbles with dour chords, an achingly slow progression which builds into a fragile, wistfully lilting guitar break. It’s the most restrained and lush section yet, but is soon crushed underfoot by the main riff as spacey synths escalate, as if preparing for take-off. ‘Arms Of The Sun’ warbles with ringing, psychedelic organ tones and whooshing synths, blasting through like a breath of clear canyon air.
‘Mind Fortresses On Theia’ explodes with droning, heaving chords, a slow paced waltz adorned with wailing vocals and shimmering cymbals broken up by a tight stop/start section. Closer ‘Organic Caverns II’ broods with threatening synths, pierced by bright, contemplative guitar before fully embracing plodding doom. Guitar and vocal lines mirror one another, lurching suddenly into thick riffing with a jarring transition that breaks into a strident chug before descending into an unusual noisescape as if exhausting itself.
Much like its namesake, ‘Canyons’ features dynamic peaks and troughs enough to engage listeners old and new. Although not quite as much a reinvention of the wheel as the Belfast trio could have pushed for, it’s a solid release that proves exactly why they are so revered – for long-time fans it’s more of the tonally beefy riffing they’ve come to expect, but for new converts it’s suffused with enough personality to set it out from the rest of the heaving doom pack.
Canyons is out on 7th June via Black Bow Records and can be purchased here
Words: Jay Hampshire