Portland post-doomsters Usnea are getting all literary on us with their second album, with a suggested reading list that includes Dune, The Handmaid’s Tale and Demon Haunted World. You’d certainly be able to polish off a few chapters in the time it takes to listen to Portals Into Futility, a five-track, 55-minute effort.
The album begins with “Eidolons and the Increate,” the second-longest song at a shade under 12 minutes. This one starts off slow and mournful, sounding sorta like Pallbearer, albeit with monkish chanted vocals. The vocals get more vicious as the band takes a slightly sludgier approach, keeping ‘er dialed in low ‘n slow. A few minutes in, the riffs slow to a snail’s pace, and we get some guttural death metal vocals, the whole sounding like a long-lost Winter demo, before a Mike Scheidt-like cry just shy of six-minutes signals a move toward more Yobbish territory, with a melodic instrumental passage around the eight-minute mark. While the chanting vocals return around ten minutes in, the back half of this number still largely reminds me of their Portland predecessors.
“Lathe of Heaven” comes flowing in slowly, a post-rock intro building into an instrumental slow burn that lasts three minutes before the first guttural vocals and crunchy riffs come in. A slow “Black Sabbath” style riff around the five-minute mark signals a change of pace, slowing things down for a few beats before veering back toward cosmic doom territory (a la YOB). “Demon Haunted World,” the shortest song on here at six-and-a-half minutes, wastes little time in getting down to the sludgy space doom displayed on previous tracks. I don’t remember the YOB influence being quite as strong on their debut album, but it’s definitely all over this one.
“Pyrrhic Victory” offers up some more shades of Winter with its punishing death-doom, mellowing out around the midway mark with a haunting interlude that lasts for a couple minutes before pushing us right back into the dank Wintery basement. The album culminates in 19-minute “A Crown of Desolation,” which blurs more YOB, Winter and Pallbearer references into an extended sludge/doom epic. Between the slow tempos and fairly static textures, this album might be the ideal background music for some heavy reading.