Review & Full Album Premiere: Eternal Black, Slow Burn Suicide

eternal black slow burn suicide

[Click play above to stream Slow Burn Suicide by Eternal Black in its entirety. Album is out June 13.]

At least as regards rock and roll, the sound of New York City has always been one fueled by grit and concrete. From the speed-pop of the Ramones to the bruiser noise of Unsane, New York has always been at its best when it manifests the intensity of its surroundings in an almost unconscious fashion, and that would seem to be precisely what’s happening with Eternal Black‘s second full-length, Slow Burn Suicide. Because for sure while the trio, in following their 2017 debut, Bleed the Days (review here), speak directly to NYC-based influences like early Type O Negative, River Runs Red-era Life of Agony, Cro-Mags — right about when RoadRacer became Roadrunner — bringing that aggression and heft of presence into the context of the traditional doom of their first record, they do so in a manner that sounds overarchingly natural. It’s clear they were consciously pushing themselves as songwriters — the returning lineup is guitarist/vocalist Ken Wohlrob, bassist Hal Miller, and drummer Joe Wood — and in so doing, they’ve entered into conversation with influences beyond the standard fare for doom.

Across nine tracks bookended by the into “All These Things Destroy You…” and the outro “All These Things (Slight Return),” Eternal Black cast the identity for themselves that the debut and 2015 self-titled EP (review here), returning to record at Suburban Elvis Studios with Joe Kelly and Kol Marshall at the helm for a tonally consistent work that’s nonetheless a marked step forward from where they were two years ago. On tracks like the post-intro opener “Lost in the Fade” and the rolling “The Ghost,” they tap into this omnidirectional aggression, and even as “Sum of All Your Fears” hits into a chorus ripe for comparison to Deliverance-style C.O.C. — especially followed by the solo as it is — the band maintain their downtrodden atmosphere instrumentally and lyrically, taking what they want from the past and making it their own.

This is pretty much the ideal in all cases, but it especially suits Eternal Black to step into the role of representing trad doom from New York, where the style has never had the same foothold it’s enjoyed for decades a few hours south in Maryland. But from the moody, atmospheric notes and strums that launch the brief “All These Things Destroy You…” onward into the tom hits that build tension at the start of “Lost in the Fade” with feedback roiling behind, Eternal Black is both things: New York and doom. The gang-style shouts in the chorus of “Lost in the Fade” only further demonstrate the point, and the band retain a sense of impact to go along with the thickness in Wohlrob and Miller‘s tones, the hook coming around after a brash verse that keeps a raw feeling despite being produced for clarity.

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“Lost in the Fade” is the longest song on Slow Burn Suicide, and a highlight, but it doesn’t feel artificially extended or any longer than it needs to be to make its point, and “Below,” which follows, reinforces the core approach of the album, with Wohlrob‘s vocals offering a guttural, low-register melody and riding a groove that, had it been on the first record, I’d probably liken to The Obsessed, while keeping a more understated chorus en route to a sharp finish. This in turn brings “The Ghost,” with smooth hi-hat work from Wood in the nodding verses and more angular turns in the bridge, eventually leveling out to a longer instrumental section ahead of the solo and closing verse riffery, which is as fitting a march as one might make to “Sum of All Fears,” which is the centerpiece and a straightforward showcase of what Eternal Black are bringing to their second LP in terms of atmosphere, lyrical depth, largesse of groove and tone, and the focus on mood throughout. Four years on from their inception, they’ve succeeded in manifesting their sound from the roots of their inspiration, and “Sum of All Fears” might be the point on Slow Burn Suicide where that’s most palpable.

Though of course there’s plenty of competition in that regard, and as “A Desert of No Name” takes hold, it does so by renewing the rhythmic bounce early and moving in its middle third to a percussion-led instrumental break — not quite a jam, but not far off — as Wohlrob pulls a quick solo overtop. They move into a speedier section to finish as one last verse sneaks in at the end, and “Three Fates” provides an interplay of acoustic and electric guitar for an interlude leading to “Saints, Sinners and Madmen.” That track is also the last before the outro “All These Things (Slight Return),” which means essentially it’s surrounded on all sides. Think it’s meant to be a standout? The purposefulness of its positioning is met by its slow-crawling lurch — as with any doom worthy of the name, the bass is the secret weapon, and Miller locks in on “Sinners, Saints and Madmen” in an effective reminder of that — and Wohlrob tosses out the album’s title line amid further grim plodding.

The song is only four and a half minutes long, which is kind of surprising given the ceremony leading into and out of it, but it picks up its pace somewhat to give a fair-enough end, though the outro’s arrival — worth noting the “Slight Return,” at 2:22, is a minute longer than the intro — does much to underscore the true message of Slow Burn Suicide in terms of the consciousness and forward-moving will of Eternal Black‘s work. That can be heard in their songwriting here all the more with the consistency in terms of production, and what while what they do remains thoroughly doomed, it’s their doom. Listening to “All These Things (Slight Return)” as it dissembles at the finish, one does not at all get the sense that Eternal Black have finished exploring the parameters of what “their doom” is, but they take important steps here and find themselves exploring new ground even as they plunge deeper into the foundations of their approach.

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One Response to “Review & Full Album Premiere: Eternal Black, Slow Burn Suicide

  1. […] Speaking of [multi-syllabic adjective] Black bands, Brooklyn doom merchants Eternal Black are back with their second LP, Slow-Burn Suicide (Obsidian Sky), this week. Blending trad doom swagger with the grit of 90s New York noise rock, the trusty power trio rollick through nine gruff, gravelly grooves, tossing any notions of a sophomore slump straight into the East River with a pair of concrete sneakers firmly laced. Light the candles on your riff altar, and check out the whole thing—as well as an in-depth look at what make Eternal Black eternally black—via The Obelisk. […]

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