One doubts if Mexico City’s Vinnum Sabbathi had in mind defending the sciences as a political position when they were putting together their debut full-length, Gravity Works, for release through LSDR Records, Aim Down Sight, and South American Sludge, but there’s a clear sense of celebrating achievement as the five-song collection plays out topped in songs like the 11-minute “Early Works” and the penultimate “Loop Quantum Gravity” by public domain samples concerning all things space: astronauts, cosmonauts, the expanding universe, and so on. Of course, the use of samples in instrumental heavy rock to take the place of lyrics isn’t anything new — it’s been done for at least the last quarter-century — but the four-piece of guitarist Alberto, bassist Samuel, Mico (or Gerardo) and sampler/synther Roman use the clips also to execute a cohesive theme across the album’s 43-minute span, and that’s somewhat rarer in terms of process.
Gravity Works is consistent in this, and from their 2015 split with Bar de Monjas, Fuzzonaut (review here), back across a slew of EPs, digital singles and other short releases to their 2012 demo, they’ve been nearly entirely focused on the cosmic in one way or another. It’s almost odd, then, that they don’t actually play space rock. One might expect the thrust of Hawkwind or the grand, effects-soaked meanderings of any number of instrumental jammers given all the space-space-space that Vinnum Sabbathi highlight, but the band actually has much more in common with the likes of Bongripper of Monolord (obviously sans vocals in the case of the latter); proffering crushing wave after crushing wave of big-tone riffs to build a massive, engaging nod.
Even when it locks into the chugging groove of centerpiece “Gravity Waves,” Gravity Works does so with an abiding thickness in the guitar and bass, and the drums seem more than happy to roll this gargantuan onslaught forward. The songs themselves are plotted but still exploratory in the sense of likely having been built out of jams — it’s easy to imagine Vinnum Sabbathi in a rehearsal space, hopefully wearing earplugs, digging into the churn that emerges from the almost calm wade into dense waters at the start of opener “Weightlessness” — and the samples provide more than flourish throughout, becoming an essential part of the record from that opener onward.
Synth is used more sparingly, unless it’s there and the guitar and bass have just eaten it entirely — possible — but the recording/mixing job by Miguel Fraino at Vesubio34 Studio and mastering by James Plotkin (Khanate, so many others) leave little to want in terms of the production quality, capturing the push of air coming from Alberto and Samuel‘s cabinet speakers, the rumble of the latter on especially prevalent on “Loop Quantum Gravity” but always a key element, without pulling away from presenting the dynamic the band has managed to build over their five-plus years together.
That is to say, Gravity Works sounds completely fucking elephantine. Listen to basically everything after “Weightlessness” (also the shortest cut at 5:22) introduces the sprawl, whether it’s “Early Works,” “Gravity Waves,” “Loop Quantum Gravity” or closer “The Probe B,” and you’ll experience chest-compressing tonal heft of a suitably high order. But Vinnum Sabbathi‘s first long-player has its atmospheric aspects as well, and whether that’s the stretch of subdued-but-tense guitar that opens “Early Works” or the midsection sample break in “Loop Quantum Gravity,” that side is just as integral in the overall execution as the lurching thud of “Gravity Waves.”
And though with its runtime and general aesthetic cohesion, Gravity Works seems like a prime vinyl candidate, the course it follows is linear, fleshing out from its beginning as it moves toward “The Probe B,” which summarizes the impact of the material, adds nuance of wah in the guitar to subtly reinforce the notion of Vinnum Sabbathi as a band still growing, still finding themselves and who will look to build on what they’ve accomplished in these songs, and caps with a fervent kick in tempo that acts as an apex for the whole outing. One supposes there isn’t much else they could’ve done to end the record, but at 4:25, after a stop that gives a sample talking about a black hole free reign, the guitars start faster, the drums come back on a roll and a gallop that imagines High on Fire meeting YOB takes hold, shoving the track and the listener onward toward, what? Destruction? Some greater interstellar consumption? A subspace corridor of color, fuzz riffs and undulating sound waves?
I don’t really know, but by the time they lock in the final couple measures of nod and rumble to a finish, I’m ready for whatever the destination might be. In terms of Gravity Works itself, that concluding hum would seem to be it, but there’s a bigger story being introduced here, and for Vinnum Sabbathi, it will be their creative progression that enables them to tell it. What they do moving forward and how they continue to come together as a band, expand the chemistry they showcase in these tracks and work to make the tenets of cosmic doom their own. An overarching direction isn’t something one is inclined to guess at, though speculation is always fun, but Vinnum Sabbathi‘s debut impresses thoroughly because of what it might be starting as well as what it achieves in its own right, and it’s only fitting that it should dwell in those multiple dimensions, since that seems to be where the band has been headed the whole time.