Since their formation in 2014, London-based experimental post-doom unit Sūrya have cultivated a reputation as the “post-doom band’s post-doom band”. Their hypnotic, cathartic, and socially conscious take on extreme metal is bolstered by a wormhole of a live show that you simply cannot look away from. Solastalgia, their second full-length, is a textbook example of a title telling you exactly what to expect. Describing a form of mental dread born from environmental change, the five tracks here are the soundtrack to the simmering, gnawing fear that many of us feel as our world is being slowly consumed around us.
Opener ‘Anthropocene’ begins with brooding bass notes and urgent tapping drums before guitars swell and stamping kicks ratchet up the tension, an achingly slow build growing organically through painfully slow ethereal drift. A spoken-word passage warns of “the last great extinction” as the drums pick up and the tension rises sharply. When it finally breaks, it does so like a storm; heavily distorted chords rising to a fittingly apocalyptic scope. Blooming into lush chords and dour synth tones, it ends on a strongly anti-capitalist sample. ‘The Purpose’ is more immediate; a shard of tremolo guitar work pierces through as huge chords slam in amid shimmering cymbals. Taking a hard turn into a bass heavy, driving riff, the deep-set groove is irresistible, guitars skittering along the flanks as if wary of the punishing kick work. Coalescing into frail, echoing guitar and bass that gradually spiral off into the void, everything unites for an explosive, focused drive. Mark Robert’s inhuman screech is harrowing and suddenly jagged chords play with the tempo, stumbling into a stripped-back section before suddenly ending in a wash of cymbals and feedback.
‘Fenland’ provides some welcome space to breathe, a swelling, tranquil space of mournful guitars – dreamlike and hazy. ‘Black Snake Prophecy’ fittingly begins with some blackened guitar work, the rhythm section conjuring a bombastic revolving groove with clanging cymbals. Dense and heaving, unrestrained, it’s the most chaotic track on the record, pulsing with drums and bass that shift and grind just below the surface. Closer ‘Saviours’ is distant; light guitar work sits at odds with the lumbering, stomping rhythm section before bursting into growled shouts. Guitars stretch effortlessly space-ward, dense layers churning with bass. Slowing to a gradual stop, it’s suddenly whipped away by blasting drums and frantic guitars, coming to a crescendo of feedback and the noise of amps pushed to their limits.
While no individual elements of Solastalgia will be wholly unfamiliar to long-standing fans of post-metal, the passion, skill and drive they’ve executed with is something to behold. Dynamically rich, infused with a vital conceptual message, Sūrya articulate a dread we all share but could not put into words. But, perhaps key, it is a record of hope and a righteous, shared fury in the face of that dread.
Solistalgia is out on 26th July via Argonautare Records and can be purchased here.
Words: Jay Hampshire