When last I heard from bleak Connecticut doomers Sea of Bones, it was the 2006 Grave of the Mammoth EP, and since the track listing of that release was three songs titled as chapters I-III, and on the self-released cardboard digipak full-length The Harvest (which has apparently been out for a while but I just got my hands on), it’s IV-VI, I’m going to assume I didn’t miss anything between. Except maybe some growth on the band’s part, because while The Harvest retains the oppressive darkness of its predecessor, Sea of Bones have clearly thickened up their sound — evidenced in the massive, inhumane guitar tone of Tom after a few minutes of ambient intro on opener “Chapter IV.”
They’re down to a trio now after having whited out the name of second guitarist Al, but there’s nothing missing from the band, as densely packed as these songs are with sludge riffing. Kevin‘s drumming could stand to be higher in the mix, but the way the vocals of both Tom and Kevin plus bassist Gary are buried under the instruments as well it works in an encompassing and/or apocalyptic kind of way. Listening to The Harvest, you get the sense that this is the way things have to be. Hopelessness is nothing new to doom — particularly doom as afflicted as this — but Sea of Bones make an old aesthetic vital once again with their raw passion and unbridled turmoil.
The songs respectively check in at 17:20, 15:15 and 20:13 (saving the epic for last, obviously), and each one hypnotically traces a path from initial stillness to gratifying apex — sometimes going there more than once — taking structural cues from the post-metal set without giving themselves over completely to that sound. The tortured screams on “Chapter V” over the always-risky-in-doom double-kick drumming are particularly blood-curdling, and the song’s quicker pace gives it a different feel from the chapter right before. Sea of Bones are evolving and their music is becoming more complex. Not a bad thing.
Anyone can riff out for 15 minutes on end, all it takes is endurance, but The Harvest shows that Sea of Bones have more going on than just endless droning and riff repetition. As “Chapter V” ends its first third with thrash-like speed it’s hard to believe that only five minutes before such an unassuming guitar line had set the course for the song. Likewise, though “Chapter VI” employs a similar opening tactic, by then you’re long since lost in the overwhelming heaviness of the material. You find yourself wondering, “Is this still the same song?” And then you’re in it.
Tom‘s guitar tone did elicit an out-loud “Holy shit” the first time I heard it, and Sea of Bones make it clear throughout their intention is to craft an atmosphere of utter desolation. What this story they’re marking the chapters of is all about is still a mystery, but so far they manage to crush the hopes and dreams of those listening to them tell it, and for doom, that’s never a bad place to start.
Tags: Connecticut, Doom, Sea of Bones, Unsigned bands