The Sunless Country
Taking their name from a nearby moor, Sheffield's Bleaklow reflect their somber, sometimes harsh surroundings into their progressively-leaning post-metal sound. Aptly titled The Sunless Country, Bleaklow's latest EP is comprised of a single, 24-minute instrumental track that incorporates throbbing riffs, a minimalist ambiance, and ethereal guitar leads into a well-crafted aural expedition.
The band members recite names like Chicago's Russian Circles and fellow Sheffieldites Naisian (whose Mammalian I reviewed here) when describing their sound, and I agree that such comparisons provide a good starting point for understanding Bleaklow's style. The music of The Sunless Country falls somewhere between Naisian's intimidating aggressiveness and Russian Circles' mellow moodiness, being almost equal parts menacing and reassuring. Driving riffs give way to plucky leads, only to be replaced by sustained, distorted notes as the EP progresses from end to end. Over the course of its run time, The Sunless Country resembles a trek through the band's namesake geography, as the music ascends to windswept progressive crescendos before descending into lush valleys of ethereal sound, only to repeat the process as the band aspires to propel the listener toward the next ridge.
The trio of musicians who are, collectively, Bleaklow exhibit notable skill with their instruments as well as a clear knack for cohesive songwriting. The progressive tendencies on display here are built upon a strong sense of melody, foregoing technical whims in order to retain a logical, and entertaining, flow. Intricate drum fills mesh with swirling leads while the bass guitar plays a strong role in keeping the music interesting. Even though The Sunless Country explores several different moods, the transitions between sections are gradual and never jar the listener from the path they've been set upon.
If post-metal - or post-anything, for that matter - turns your stomach, then The Sunless Country is probably not for you. Fans of the style, though, will certainly find Bleaklow to be an outfit worth investigating. The guys haven't broken any ground with their latest release, but they absolutely understand the elements of good songcraft and have put together a nice addition to the genre.
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