Reunion albums are a minefield.
I’m sure we’ve all experienced the mixture of euphoria and dread when we hear that a band we loved were making a new album, years after they’d split up.
You usually get them falling into three categories: stormers that are up there with the best work (‘Absolute Dissent’, ‘Monotheist’), solid/average (‘Industrial Complex’, ‘At War With Reality’) or utter howlers (‘Relapse’).
Of course, this is the case with every album released. But reunion albums, due to the weight of expectations and history, are held up for closer scrutiny. A mix of nostalgia, hope and unrealistic expectations.
But then, remember that old Situationalist saying: “be realistic. Demand the impossible.”
Which, when it comes to bands trying to recapture the vitality of their best work after a lengthy lay off, is quite fitting.
Soup Of Filth
Long Islanders Unearthly Trance were the talk of the underground for their early years.
With debut LP ‘Season Of Séance, Science Of Silence’, they set the bar for bands to combine black, death and doom metal, turning it into a musical primordial soup of utter filth. After all these years, it still kicks.
Subsequent releases would see the band embracing higher production values and lose some of the murkiness that made them such a proposition in the first place. 2010’s ‘V’ (featuring art from the legendary Glyn Smith) was something of a return to form, as was the following year’s split with The Endless Blockade. Nothing amazing, but good to see regardless.
A Japanese tour with the Melvins led to the band declaring there would be no more live shows, but this turned into a disbandment the next year.
Therefore, to see them reform and play shows was something of a surprise. But all of this means nothing if ‘Stalking the Ghost’ isn’t any good.
So is it?
Kicking off with ‘Into the Spiral’ we get a bulldozing, midtempo riff and demented vocals from Ryan Lipynsky about “programmed altered states.”
It’s unsubtle, primal and utterly enjoyable. The middle eight throws in a more post punk feel, due to the prominence of the bass and the echoey effects on the vocals.
And when the band go back into the main riff, the force of it feels unparalleled. Excellent opener. Easily the best Melvins song not written by them in years.
Feedback as an intro is always a good move, and ‘Dream State Arsenal’ allows it to soundtrack the listener’s descent into hell before Jay Newman gives us a simple, yet highly sinister bass riff which fights with the feedback in the mix, before the band give us some old fashioned doom.
The chorus features some neat drumming from Darren Verni, where he speeds up the tempo. Thus giving the listener a feeling that the song is on the verge of impending collapse, but pulls back again for the verses.
‘Scythe’ is pure power. No fucking about, just a powerful headbanger with some very tasty guitar lines in the mix. ‘Lion Strength’ is an atmospheric piece of nihilism that features a slow burning, Swans inspired middle section with intoned vocals and the music being pulled back to a few cymbal hits and the odd bass note.
Closing with ‘The Great Cauldron’, another bulldozing riff is thrown at the listener, coming across as a little lazy, but then the band throw in some neat doom riffage, frantic soloing and close with a minute of distorted noise.
In a way, it’s a shame that the noise wasn’t incorporated more into the track, If it had been in the mix throughout the song, it would have been the perfect closer by matching the lyrical content: “The warning came, but no one took heed/The blade is ready to fall on our necks/Black clouds float in a rank atmosphere.”
So where does this fall in the “reunion album” categories?
Well, first off, it was never going to match ‘Season Of Séance…’, and the production could do with being a bit dirtier but it’s an excellent record in it’s own right.
Let’s rate it as solid.
The people who have found the band’s output post ‘Season of…’ a bit too straight up metal will not be convinced but, for others, this a great record with riffing aplenty. Maybe even the best Melvins record in years!
3.5 / 5 - Christopher Owens ::: 05/03/17