First off: this is a 9.75/ 10 review. Be forewarned: rapturous pronouncements abound in the impending text.
This is your brain on music, by Daniel J. Levitin, about the biophysics of music (what it does to your brain, i.e.), has sections about the attack of the instrument (the initial sound it makes when producing a note) ruling how your brain recognizes the instrument itself; without attack, a sax is like a guitar is like an oboe is like a xylophone….
Virginia doom/stoner metal band Salome, and their new album Terminal (released this Tuesday, 11.9.10), are all about the after attack; the properties of sound as a mover of your innards, not your ears; where the instrument itself is immaterial; waves of sonicicity, of the sheer physics of what sound waves do to a human body.
For instance, my cat goes to sleep when Terminal is on; when I practice tenor saxophone, he runs from the room. Literally. Odd that such a huge sonic… for lack of a better word, force-– (tuned to A friggin’ standard tuning) can be so relaxing and overwhelming at the same time.
I previously made an analogy of Salome’s singer, Kat, reminding me of the demon- possessed: I still can’t grasp how she can rasp so painfully and yet still enunciate.
Terminal opens with sounds tantamount to sonar; beckons comparisons to the bloop: a huge undersea sound that shouldn’t be possible– go check out the link, I’ll wait….
Huh? Was I right or what? There’s a weird, almost nautical hugeness to Salome’s sound, one like only the abyssal plain can contain, where the sort of creatures required to make a sound that massive can hide from civilization.*
And there’s one guitar player! And no bassist!
Frankly I would love to be able to tell you, ultra-eloquent writer style, why I love Salome– but I can’t. They just hit that sweet spot. That certain thing, you know, that sort of embarrasses you that someone can do that to you, but keeps you coming back for more– like that hooker you picked up on Esplanade that one time. (Don’t look embarrassed– we all have, dude.)
And isn’t that nameless thing what music is about? Those areas that writing, or anything else, can’t describe or affect…?
The whole album needs to be heard as a single unit. It’s one slab of sound.
If you have to get a song-by-song play-by-play:
“The Message”: after the aforementioned sonar blips, Riffs like ocean waves (the capital R was intentional and merited); frankly I don’t know what the message is, but I fucking got it. It ends with Electronic Voice Phenomenon lyrics, which segue into…
“Terminal” and it’s lurching, half sinister, half cartoony riff….
“Master Failure”‘s lyric refrain of We tried, We failed is enunciated despair and rage somehow aligned. It’s chilling to hear it out loud, like those conversations everyone fears at the Thanksgiving dinner table, having finally come to fruition– how you really felt, et cetera…. Cathartic and embarrassing… necessary….
“Epidemic”‘s churning sound follows, somehow not annoying and self-indulgent, but forboding of what is to come…. “An accident of history” gnaws at a specific chord so long you expect to end up with a wormhole into… somewhere else….
“The Witness” opens sounding like radio broadcasts delineating the end of the world. Yet again during this listen you fear for the future… it’s a jet engine become sentient and somehow carnivorous… it embodies the relaxed acceptance of certain doom…. The only reason Terminal doesn’t get the perfect score is that The Witness makes its point well, then procedes to overstay its welcome…. By the time we hear the sonar bleeps again (hello, thematic symmetry, how I love you!), it’s about ten minutes too late.
“The Unbelievers” closes the album– a warning to the curious, an understated, quiet diatribe, the howling whisper, to finish and flesh out previously-fêted definitions of doom. The gradual descent into entropy, the white dwarf curling into star death… into infinite mass.
Great, great shit.
*Lest we go insane.