Review & Video Premiere: SÂVER, They Came with Sunlight

saver they came with sunlight

[Click play above to play ‘Dissolve to Ashes’ from SÂVER’s debut album, They Came with Sunlight. Album is out March 8 on Pelagic Records.]

They Came with Sunlight isn’t just the first full-length from Oslo three-piece SÂVER, it’s their first offering of any kind as a band. Released through Pelagic Records, it runs a punishing and atmospheric 51 minutes through six tracks of extreme and densely atmospheric sludge that, despite being so dig into the dirt, nonetheless maintains a progressive spirit in both composition and presentation. That SÂVER would know what they’re doing shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise, though, as the members are all pretty well familiar with each other. Markus Støle (drums) and Ole C. Helstad (bass) shared tenure in the also-crushing Tombstones before Støle and guitarist/vocalist Ole Ulvik Rokseth put out an album as the duo Hymn in 2017. As SÂVER brings together all three parties, the new group unquestionably benefits from that familiarity. In nuanced moments like the far-back shouts that offset the chugging central riff of lead single “I, Vanish,” or the maddening tension cast as “How They Envisioned Life” crosses its halfway point, they demonstrate a clearheadedness to their approach and a dynamic that’s new in this form but well established sounding.

They put it to use, primarily, to punish everyone and everything in their path. With opener “Distant Path” (11:03) and closer “Altered Light” (12:34) bookending They Came with Sunlight as its two longest inclusions and the first of them exploding to life after more than 90 seconds of quiet tension-building, SÂVER quickly put the challenge to the listener. Rokseth‘s vocals enter over massively weighted tonality like Neurosis at their most belligerent, and the intensity is striking particularly in the context of the band having just spent over a minute and a half with quiet amp noise setting up the suckerpunch of that first jolt. Patience and intensity, working together toward an end of extreme atmospheric purpose. It is brutal, and gorgeous as well, as “Distant Path” hits its late slowdown in excruciating feedback and lumber, devolving to noise as “I, Vanish” immediately jolts into its prog-metal-style chug.

Rest assured, I don’t mean gorgeous like floaty post-rock guitars or warm low end. SÂVER‘s craft is no less greyscale and freezing than their promo photo, but there’s a beauty to that as well, and “I, Vanish” reminds of the hard edges and distinct angles of brutalist architecture once brought to bear sonically by Meshuggah, though the three-piece never lose their central groove on “I, Vanish” or elsewhere in the name of rhythmic experimentation. Still, that mechanized churning finds its footing in the seven-minute track and is joined by an overwhelming push of screams and crashing drums, a version of noise methodical but still feeling chaotic before it drops to the drums and bass in the midsection in order, presumably, to catch its breath before the next assault. When that comes, it’s shouts that lead the way back into the central riff, which in turn gives way to mountainous low end and crash and screams at the finish, a full assault of volume through which the guitar is still able to cut with a lead line that seems to pull up just as everything else ends.

Saver (Photo by Mikkel Fykse Engelschion)

Since the first half of the tracklist runs from longest song to shortest and the second half from shortest to longest, one might call it a ‘U’ shape, but the linear motion of the 5:55 “Influx” is pivotal anyway. Essentially a soundscape, it gradually builds from an initial drone to crashes that are a whole different shape of punishment, essentially leaving the listener waiting for a payoff that, given the runtime, it’s obvious isn’t coming. That’s a play, of course, but even the fact that SÂVER would be bold enough to use six minutes of atmospherics for such a purpose speaks to the intent at work behind They Came with Sunlight. When the second half of the album opens with “How they Envisioned Life,” it does so at their slowest pace yet, and the crawl only makes their sound that much more malevolent. There’s a chug-and-hold modus at work, but it doesn’t matter, because by the time they’re past halfway through, the level of violence is so high whatever they’re doing it’s all directed toward that end. With “Dissolve to Ashes” and “Altered Light” still to come, I won’t call it an apex for the album, but just before “How They Envisioned Life” hits its sixth minute, there’s a kind of last shove before it starts to fracture en route to the slowdown that ends it, and it so clearly conveys the idea of total human exertion — that moment when a person has pushed out their last breath and has to double-over from the effort — that it’s hard to think of it in any other way.

Accordingly, “Dissolve to Ashes” couldn’t possibly be better timed. With a line of effects/keys/something woven through, the penultimate inclusion starts relatively mellow and stays that way for some time, delivering the album’s title line as its opening lyric in the first non-harsh vocals of the outing. There’s madness to come, rest assured, and it is all the more a cacophony for that quiet moment preceding — the power of contrast — but even that later barrage is indicative of the control SÂVER exert over their material and the willful nature of their conjuring. With just “Altered Light” as the finale and longest track, They Came with Sunlight ends on perhaps its most ambitious note and after quiet/loud trades, it is once more the tension that seems to be at the core of what they’re doing. After a long stretch of bass and drums at the outset, the guitar picks up to lead the way into the first heavier section, with screams cutting through as the song passes its halfway point, and there’s a receding after seven minutes in as SÂVER regroup for the last movement.

There’s a surge of volume, sure enough, but it’s restrained compared to some of the others throughout, and instead, at about 10 minutes in, the three-piece introduce a winding chug that will carry them out. They top it with shouts and screams, but it’s the tension that ultimately holds sway, not a payoff, and they end cold, as if the dead silence after was no less an element at their disposal than the guitar, bass and drums. As I’ve been writing this review, I’ve had to go back and check how many times I’ve used the word “excruciating” for the level of cruelty with which SÂVER execute their grim, concrete vision, but it’s worth emphasizing that They Came with Sunlight offers more than just noise or aggression for their own sake. There is a conscious underpinning at work and as these three players take on this new progression, even at its beginning stages, the potential is writ large across the devastated landscape they convey.

SÂVER, “I, Vanish” official video

SÂVER on Thee Facebooks

Pelagic Records website

Pelagic Records on Thee Facebooks

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2 Responses to “Review & Video Premiere: SÂVER, They Came with Sunlight

  1. […] To Ashes” clip alongside a lengthy investigation of the record courtesy of The Obelisk at THIS LOCATION. View the band’s previously-issued “I, Vanish” video […]

  2. […] February 19, 2019 Jarod No Comments [Photo by Mikkel Fykse Engelschion; effects by Simen Sandbæk Skari] “[They Came With Sunlight] runs a punishing and atmospheric fifty-one minutes through six tracks of extreme and densely atmospheric sludge that, despite being so dug into the dirt, nonetheless maintains a progressive spirit in both composition and presentation.” — The Obelisk     View / Share SÂVER’s “Dissolve To Ashes” Video At THIS LOCATION […]

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