Review & Track Premiere: Sundecay, Gale

sundecay gale

[Click play above to stream “Gales” from Sundecay’s new EP, Gale. Vinyl is out Nov. 30.]

It’s an old debate, EP vs. LP. Where the line stops between a short release and a full-length. I take my cues from bands, and Sundecay have made it clear that their new self-released four-songer, Gale, is an EP. But I don’t necessarily agree. At half an hour long, it’s right on the border of one side or the other, but the key factor for me is the way the Toronto DIY five-piece arrange the songs themselves to set up a clear flow from opener “Heavy Motions” through the 11-minute closer “The Land that Never Thaws.” Gale breaks roughly even into two vinyl sides — which is fortunate, because they’ve pressed it up as a 12″ in limited numbers, gold-embossed front lettering, etc. — of two songs apiece, and especially in physical form, there’s no substance lacking that one would say it isn’t an impressive debut album.

Does it ultimately matter? Probably not, and it could well be that Sundecay will next year put out a full-length that’s a 70-minute 2LP and show themselves as thinking of an album as a completely different entity — I don’t know that that’s going to happen, I’m just positing a hypothetical — but the bottom line either way is that Gale presents a strong front-to-back fluidity amid its burly double-guitar riffs, spacious vocal echoes and largesse of groove to ignite the argument.

With Mark Chandler and Brian Scott (the latter also cover art) on guitar, Derek Hoffman as bassist, engineer and mixer, Julian Vardy on drums and Rich Pauptit on vocals, Sundecay bring together “Heavy Motions,” “Gales,” “From Corners” and “The Land that Never Thaws” with a firm sense of aesthetic, capturing some of the marauding sensibility of mid-period High on Fire but played at maybe two-thirds speed, so that the battle axe of riffs is swinging, but kind of in slow motion. Tempo shifts and moments of ambience like those that open “Heavy Motions” or appear in the second half of “The Land that Never Thaws” suit the band well, but of course the sheer level of impact is a major consideration in what they do.

And their work hits hard. “From Corners” is the shortest cut on the EP at 3:57, pairing smoothly with the closer on side B, and it has an almost classic doom approach to its swaggering groove, making it all the more understandable where they’re coming from in touting a Pentagram/proto-metal influence, but someone in this band listens to or listened to earlier Mastodon, and the effect of that style of weighted, almost-angular chugging tension is present in the guitar as well as the dreary atmospheres surrounding. It’s a fitting answer to the echoing beardo-burl of Pauptit‘s vocals, which seem to call up in “Heavy Motions” from beneath the rolling nod in a way that’s both headphone-worthy and calling for max-volume presentation, so, you know, watch your eardrums.

sundecay gale vinyl

If nothing else, “Heavy Motions” lives up to its name, moving from its gradual start into a melodic interplay of guitar for the verse before seeming to grow thicker as it progresses through the midsection and plods into a drum-dropout before the five-minute mark, only to resume the fervent march in apex fashion as the ending, which concludes in a long fade bringing about the foreboding open of “Gales,” the guitars evoking a bluster of wind from the outset that seems to blow in multiple directions. Like “Heavy Motions” before, the opening is gradual, but does much to establish the feel of the song itself, and when the drums and bass kick in at full-tone, there’s a feeling of arrival.

A more driven push takes hold before two minutes in with a faster meter and some of that crunching angularity brought forward in the guitar at the central position. They wind their way into a slowdown in the middle third but hold to it for a while, and make it unclear at first if they’l even go back at all to the chug from whence they came. When they do, it’s with about a minute left, and they run through the verse one more time before finishing out with a showcase of symmetry that seems all the more relevant for ending the first half of the record.

The relatively brief “From Corners” follows and plays a crucial role not only in offsetting “The Land that Never Thaws” still to come, but in allowing the band to expand the context of the album — (coughs loudly) — overall, with a departure from the methods of the two prior tracks. “From Corners” is inherently more straightforward in its structure, and while it remains tonally and rhythmically consistent with what surrounds, Sundecay use it to efficiently demonstrate a malleable methodology on the whole.

Their 2014 debut, Bodies at the Frontier, had a similar construction to its songs, if swapped in side A and B, but the band’s growth in sound is palpable and it’s hard to argue against closing with “The Land that Never Thaws,” which drops its title-line in the first verse and brings its slower chug to bear along with a markedly epic feel underscored by the lumber of the drumming at its root. It’s not the first time the band have gone marching, but they do it well and with a particularly downtrodden flare in “The Land that Never Thaws,” and as that gives way to the stretch of guitar, bass and vocals alone, the nigh-goth pastoralism is one more fascinating turn that makes the surge that begins after nine minutes in even more of a crescendo. Pauptit‘s vocals come to the fore of the mix with surrounding wails of guitar and plod of bass and drums, and the guitars cap in chugging fashion on a fade to mirror that of “Heavy Motions.”

Whether one considers¬†Gale an EP or an LP, that symmetry is essential to the progressive impression the band makes on the whole. It may well be that this collection is just a sampling of their intent toward larger- and longer-form works to come. If so, fine. But the adage of “it’s just an EP” doesn’t really apply to the formidable presence¬†Sundecay¬†establish or the swath of heavy styles they seem to so naturally make their own in this material.

Sundecay on Bandcamp

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