Unearthly Trance Come After You with V

If there’s a prevailing atmosphere on, V, the aptly-titled fifth album by New York City doomers Unearthly Trance, it is despair. No doubt Saint Vitus, who named their fifth full-length the same thing in 1989, were in mind for the trio, and on some levels it’s a fair comparison. If you look at it at just the right angle, Unearthly Trance play slow, are tortured, give a solid showing of aural anguish as did the West Coast doom progenitors, but where their V (absolutely nothing against it) reveled in its simplicity, Unearthly Trance seem bent on making their sound as complex and multi-faceted as possible.

For me, V finds its high point in “Adversaries Mask 1” and “Adversaries Mask 2.” Together, the pair run just a little longer than seven-minute opener “Unveiled” and “Solar Eye,” but the former’s semi-minimalist approach might represent the most brutal moment on V while also being the quietest, and the latter’s unbridled chaos shows a new side of Unearthly Trance the band has been able to incorporate into their sound. “Adversaries Mask 2” plays out like a more misanthropic take on NeurosisGiven to the Rising; there’s no real structure other than that provided by the consistent tom work of drummer Darren Verni and the running lines of bassist Jay Newman, no riffs to speak of from guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lipynsky, whose screams are also perhaps at their most brutal, and a pervading sense of the deranged often neglected when bands “go off” in such ways. As “Adversaries Mask 2” gives way to the more riff-driven “The Tesla Effect” — on which Lipynsky shows his time has been well spent in black metal outfit The Howling Wind — the adrenaline level of the whole album rises and the contrast between the songs only heightens the appeal of both.

“The Tesla Effect” is something of a return to normality for Unearthly Trance after the suckerpunch duo of tracks, getting back to the plodding, crashing, tonal heft of earlier material like “The Horsemen Arrive in the Night” without aping it or sounding formulaic. If anything V is the opposite, too much all over the place, but that’s a superficial judgment. The more time you spend with the record, the more you’re going to understand its flow and when the cymbal-driven groove of “Sleeping While They Feast” moves into the lumbering crash/scream-fest “Submerged Metropolis” — like a more filled-out Khanate — the transition won’t be so much like slamming into a wall as, well, it’s still kind of like slamming into a wall, but in a more understandable way.

At an exhausting, sonically pummeling hour long, V is a commitment for the listener, and though I think a song like “Current” has value and a place on the record, it probably could just as easily have shown up on any number of the splits Unearthly Trance has issued (minimum six, with the likes of Minsk, Ramesses and Aldebaran) since their 2008 full-length, Electrocution and been all the better for it, but there’s a similar effect as that song bleeds into “Physical Universe Distorts” as there was in the move from “Adversaries Mask 2” into “The Tesla Effect,” only reversed, so it’s not like the track is entirely without purpose. “Physical Universe Distorts” leads into the even more anguished “Into a Chasm,” and just when you think V is going to make a turn for the accessible with the seven-minute “The Leveling,” perhaps end on a more active note similar to how it began, Lipynsky, Newman and Verni unleash their most minimalist, most doomed ritual yet. What’s being leveled is your expectation.

There are just as many who fervently argue on the pro side of Unearthly Trance as there are on the con, and though I usually find myself somewhere in the middle — probably the least favorable option from the band’s standpoint — even I’m ready to say that the growth the band has undertaken from album to album is palpable. V feels like a record that took longer than two years to write, and Unearthly Trance sound like a band who’ve gone from figuring out their sound to constantly exploring, which is a much bigger difference than it may seem initially. V challenges and offers little sympathy, and for many doomers, will just be too much to handle, but hey, there’s plenty of easy listening out there for whoever wants it. For those whose souls could use a good wrenching, Unearthly Trance are here waiting.

Unearthly Trance on MySpace

Relapse Records

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4 Responses to “Unearthly Trance Come After You with V

  1. JT says:

    Really really really looking forward to this release.

  2. Linus says:

    Awesome shit is coming

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