This collaborative effort between the Swedish Neurosis [Cult of Luna] and New York noise rocker Julie Christmas appears to be a concept album about live on the high seas—a theme perhaps not unfamiliar to ISIS, another notable (though sadly long defunct) post-sludge outfit. With five tracks spanning nearly 55 minutes, tis a rather lengthy voyage.
“A Greater Call” gets us on our not-so-merry way, a slow, mellow intro—quite peaceful, really—until a mighty roar signals a shift into noisier NeurIsian seas. A steady, nautical chug underpins some harsh vocals around the four-minute mark before we’re swept away by a majestic flourish with rumbles akin to Zoroaster—albeit with this Swedish sextet offering up a much more cinematic backdrop than the now-defunct Georgia trio. The opener segues seamlessly into second track “Chevron,” which is anchored by a viscous female vocal overtop a bass-heavy, noise-rock verse. Pretty powerful breakdowns around the four-minute mark as female and male vocals add to an increasing maelstrom, which ultimately ends on a more subdued note.
“The Wreck of S.S. Needle” is an epic track anchored by Christmas’ angsty vocals. This one actually gives the feeling of being stuck in rough waters, a sensation somewhat akin to listening to ISIS’ Oceanic album. A shimmering synth shines above a rough-hewn rhythm section in an extended instrumental passage, before the sickly-sweet vocals return with an electronic flourish. The closest thing to a refrain kicks in just short of the seven-minute mark, and while the vocals aren’t entirely intelligible (“Break me down where I can see you run?”) it is nevertheless a memorable hook.
Although there are no short songs here, the album ends with a couple of increasingly lengthy epics, beginning with the 13-minute “Approaching Transition.” This one sounds like the background music to an eerie horror movie at its outset, before the first languid guitar riff kicks in around the 2:30 mark. This one borders on funeral doom for a bit, with a droning vocal barely rising above the mix. It does have its airier, mellower moments, but remains driven by a downtrodden, slow ‘n doomy riff throughout its lengthy runtime. The 15+ minute “Cygnus” is more vocal-driven and perhaps more industrial than its predecessor, though it is not without its share of hard-hitting riffage. There’s even a hint of Jex Thoth in some of these vocal melodies, albeit served up in a much heftier package. But as with any 15-minute song, it does tend to drag on a bit too long.
That said, one of my biggest problems with post-sludge is that it often fails to capture my attention for the extended lengths several of these songs and albums require. But this record is compelling and dynamic enough that I can’t really complain.