Slomatics, Future Echo Returns: Into the Eternal (Plus Track Premiere)

slomatics future echo returns

[Click play above to stream a premiere of ‘Supernothing’ from Slomatics’ new album, Future Echo Returns, out Sept. 2 on Black Bow Records.]

One can only wonder if it felt like going home when Belfast’s Slomatics showed up at Skyhammer Studio to record their fifth album, Future Echo Returns, with producer Chris Fielding. The fit between engineer and band is remarkable, and in addition, it furthers an alliance between the Northern Irish sans-bass double-guitar trio and Fielding‘s own outfit, Conan, with whom Slomatics released a split in 2011 (prior to Fielding joining; review here), and whose Jon Davis co-owns Skyhammer and runs Black Bow Records, through which Future Echo Returns is released. The two acts share a decent amount of common intent, both geared toward consuming tones and lumbering rhythm, and Conan has acknowledged at several points that Slomatics — who made their debut in 2005 — were an influence.

That’s audible throughout Future Echo Returns as it was through its predecessor, 2014’s Estron (review here), but brought out even more through the Skyhammer recording, though Slomatics continue their own sonic development throughout the included seven tracks/40 minutes as well, bringing a spacious feel to go with all that crushing guitar via keyboard and synth flourish and by pushing forward with a melodic range that so much stood the last record out from its surroundings, as one can hear on the harmonized album-apex “Supernothing,” as well as in the key work on the earlier “Electric Breath,” which follows the rolling instrumental opener “Estronomicon” to begin a flow that continues all the way through 10-minute closer “Into the Eternal.”

The link between “Estronomicon” and the title of the prior outing is no accident either. Rather, after Estron and the record before it, 2012’s A HochtFuture Echo Returns is the third in something of a narrative trilogy, recently described by guitarist Chris Couzens — joined in the band by guitarist David Marjury and drummer/vocalist Marty Harvey — as a kind of moment of resignation or acceptance of one’s fate. Clearly the end of a story, but still vague enough to be left open to interpretation. That actually suits the vibe of Future Echo Returns, which only seems to offer more to dig into on repeat listens, and which weaves into and out of songs with the fluidity of book chapters so that “Estronomicon” builds into the start of “Electric Breath,” which cuts off so the chugging opening riff of “In the Grip of Fausto” can pick up on the beat, and so on.

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Having an instrumental opener nearly five minutes long also has a hypnotic effect on the listener, so that when the vocals kick in on “Electric Breath,” it’s a readjustment of head space, and that feels purposeful as well. Slomatics are toying with their audience somewhat, and at this point they have the command to do it. “Electric Breath” and “In the Grip of Fausto” both offer choice hooks, and the ease with which the band shifts into different methods of expression becomes a big part of Future Echo Returns‘ personality, as shown already with the key-laden ending to “Electric Breath,” and in the move from “In the Grip of Fausto” to the quiet atmospheric guitar and synth of “Ritual Beginnings,” a six-minute instrumental that develops some movement within its ambient context but departs boldly from the heft that surrounds it on all sides.

Still brooding and foreboding as it starts to thud into its last minute, “Ritual Beginnings” is the presumed closer of side A (also the CD/digital centerpiece), and leads into the crashing “Rat Chariot,” which may or may not feature guest vocal spots from both Fielding and Jon Davis in its second half, introduced by a break from the roll soon enough to resume and hit a particularly memorable peak that keeps going even as it fades out into the sudden jolt at the start of “Supernothing.” Again, the penultimate track on Future Echo Returns is also the apex, while “Into the Eternal” comes across as something of a denouement for this series of three albums, and it’s also the most melodically resonant chorus they offer, Harvey‘s voice harmonized in post-Floor form, as opposed to some of the Black Cobra-ish style on “In the Grip of Fausto” or “Rat Chariot.”

It’s a moment of arrival, and very much sounds like it. A slower progression only enhances the sense of grandeur, and though it’s only four minutes long, “Supernothing” leaves one of the album’s most lasting impressions, complemented by “Into the Eternal” after it, which picks up (again, on the beat) with an initial stretch of choral keys leading to a mostly instrumental lumber that moves through its runtime with similar tonal entrancement as “Estronomicon” but is airier in its midsection guitar lead and in some swaying non-lyric vocals (also harmonized) that reinforce the feeling of resignation the song is intended to convey. It’s not a riotous, unhinged finish at all, and neither is it intended to be. It’s the graceful conclusion of a longer arc that has covered the last four-plus years, and if Future Echo Returns is really the final installment of that story, “Into the Eternal” makes for a gorgeous finish. The sense of continuity it brings is all the more appropriate considering the breadth it shows and how it ties the whole album together, completing a triumph writ large over the entire span.

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