Brotherhood of Sleep, Dark as Light: Heralding an Eternal Dawn

Part of the expanding and unabashedly stoner-fied Greek scene, Athens trio Brotherhood of Sleep – who are not to be confused with Down’s moniker for their fans, “The Brotherhood of Eternal Sleep” – follow a 2009 self-titled with their second LP, Dark as Light (Catch the Soap Productions). The album, entirely instrumental, is comprised of four massive slabs of Orange-hued, mostly-fuzzed, riff-led heavy psych, semi-progressive in its sometimes-displayed angularity, and not given to the extensive jamming of some of the European psychedelic scene. Each of the four pieces, “Afterlife Unearthed,” “Naze,” “Aranian Gates” and “Dark as Light,” has a plotted construction, somewhere it’s on the way to being, and that greatly helps keep the listener hooked as Dark as Light progresses. Liner notes as heady as the music the three-piece concocts help to guide a narrative that plays out in the music but aren’t essential to the listening experience. As all of the songs top 11 minutes, there’s plenty of room for the audience to make up their own mind concerning themes and storyline.

There’s an element of Om-style spirituality in some of what Brotherhood of Sleep do within the time and volume shifts of “Afterlife Unearthed” and the subsequent material on Dark as Light, but ultimately the band probably has more in common with the likes of a vocal-less Sungrazer or their peers among the next generation’s Colour Haze-inspired ilk. As the title suggests, there’s a lot of playing off the contradicting dark and light atmospheres, perhaps mostly on “Naze,” which tops 14 minutes as the longest track on the album and begins slow, led by bassist Danis A. Throughout both that song and the record as a whole, though, the standout performance is by drummer Serafim G., whose bright, popping snare is like a call to attention across “Afterlife Unearthed,” and whose fills make all the difference selling the material. There are a couple points where I wish he’d open up a groove and really lock in with the riffs, settle into the song instead of seem so busy (8:17 into “Naze,” if you want a specific example), as he does late into the closer, but by and large he’s a good demonstration of the difference a drummer can really make in a band, as without his stylized play anchoring the rhythm section, Dark as Light would inevitably fall flat.

Guitarist George G. leads, but not in the typical stoner sense of “Okay guys, I’m gonna play the riff four times by myself then everyone come in.” His solos somewhat understated, he nonetheless kicks off “Aranian Gates” establishing a mood somewhere between quiet Ufomammut drone and the aforementioned Om – the difference obviously being the inclusion of guitar. Dark as Light was recorded live, and if that shows in any of the ambience on these cuts, it’s on “Aranian Gates,” which boasts the album’s best chiaroscuro work and smoothest transitions between parts. Danis and Serafim (we’ll go with first names so as not to list them as A. and G.) once more prove formidable and George seems to know just where to add a little feedback and dirty up the proceedings a bit. The finale title track, on which George lets loose the reverb and the band show a touch more space-infused triumph, is still enough in line with the rest of Dark as Light to not seem out of place. Perhaps more so than its three companions, “Dark as Light” works best in a loud wash, the snare cutting through the mire with well-captured ghost-note hits, but one could probably just as easily sit and parse the sundry turns Brotherhood of Sleep are making. For what it’s worth, the former makes for a better listen.

With five years together as of 2011, Brotherhood of Sleep show they still have some growing to do in developing their sound. The riffs on Dark as Light border on the kind of lyrical style that can really drive instrumental music to be memorable, and occasionally get there, but there’s more George, Danis and Serafim can do to bring out that side of their playing in the future, while still maintaining the considerable sprawl of the songs here. The latter half of Dark as Light provides an excellent platform to go from, and though their sound will seem familiar to those entrenched in European-style heavy psych, a deeper read shows the personality Brotherhood of Sleep put into their playing. Their instincts are good, and with an increased emphasis on building structures and a more dynamic production, they should have no trouble learning the lessons their second album has to teach. As the Greek scene becomes more and more vibrant and more present in the international consciousness of the underground heavy, the forward motion of an album like Dark as Light can only help Brotherhood of Sleep make a name for themselves among the initiated.

Brotherhood of  Sleep, “The Aranian Gates”

Brotherhood of Sleep’s website

Catch the Soap Productions

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