Somewhat contrary to the monstrous and somehow still nipple-inclusive design of the album’s cover, the self-titled debut from London-based trio Bright Curse is a thoroughly human and natural-sounding affair. The three-piece, who arrived in London by way of France, offer four extended tracks and an intro that run a heavy psych gamut from the sweet jamming of Colour Haze all the way to the open-spaced vibing of earliest Witchcraft, and while the stylistic shifts they make are interesting enough, what works best about the album is the smoothness with which the lineup of Romain (guitar/vocals), Sammy (bass) and Zach (drums) transition between stretches of bare sonic minimalism to effective fuzzy propulsion, making the most of tradeoffs between loud and quiet in a manner usually reserved for post-metallers while still keeping a focus on the heavy and grooving straightforward aspects of their songwriting. Following opener “A Sonic Wave,” which sure enough is a minute-plus of a single undulating riff, “The Hermit” sets a structural pattern that “Unknown Mistress,” “What’s Beyond the Sun” and closer “Mind Traveller” will all follow to one degree or another that departs from verse/chorus interplay to an instrument-driven build that gives each track both its length and its sense of dynamic apex. What keeps Bright Curse‘s Bright Curse from sounding redundant as a result of this structural similarity is the stylistic shifts between the songs, so that though patterns may repeat, the context for those patterns comes across as fluid and malleable, and the band, which recorded the songs at Rock of London Studio with JB Pilon, who’s since taken over bass duties in place of Sammy.
The element of contrasting loud and quiet stretches is immediate almost from the start, as “A Sonic Wave” gives over its established rolling groove to the subdued low-end beginnings of “The Hermit,” which Sammy opens in ambient rumbles while Romain adds punctuation on the guitar for the first minute until the vocals kick in and the stage is set for Zach‘s entry a short while later and a push not far off from some of what Elder has managed to hone commences, though it moves more into a modern European heavy psych jam, Romain taking a rising solo that the bass follows as Zach holds the flow together. There’s only really been one verse so far, but the song has come a long way, and the instrumental build winds up providing the crux of the motion as it continues to play out, rising to full-toned heights before locking into a sizable riffy groove before the five-minute mark and from there crashing into the from-the-ground-up build that will comprise its last couple minutes, Romain repeating the takeaway line “In my head…” that also appeared earlier in the song as the first lines as setup for another run through the verse and the heavier part of the song. “Unknown Mistress” works in more of a shuffling vein with an effective chorus and delivery from Romain of the title line and a more immediate groove. Here too, Bright Curse take their time in letting the track unfold, but the clearer divisions between verse and chorus — though less ambitious stylistically — suit them well and showcase a knack for the straightforward as well as the less predictable that adds depth to the album. Around the halfway point of the song’s 7:27, they break into a still-moving just jazzier atmospheric stretch that carries past the six-minute mark before a Tool-style return finds Zach adding palpable stomp. They pick up the pace to end somewhat raucous, but a final nod to the chorus gives a last-second sense of symmetry to the whole affair, which never came off as that out of control to start with.