Still - {}

24 Sep 2021 - Knut

Post Metal/Post Hardcore | Trepanation Recordings | Release date: 24 Sep 2021

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I have been an avid listener to all kinds of music for decades, I have seen trends come and go. In many music genres, trends seem to fade into oblivion, but in Metal related music, trends seem to become a genre. When Neurosis released Souls at Zero in 1992 they began the musical journey towards what has become Post-Metal or Atmospheric Sludge-Metal, inspiring genre-defining bands like Isis or Cult of Luna. And now, circa 30 years after, the genre is as vibrant as ever and almost overflowing of bands. And in come Still form Hull, UK, with their first full release { }. This riveting release will climb into the top regions of many AOTY lists.

As with many fresh bands, there are also genre-defying aspects on this release from Still. With the desperate Screamo vocals, the invigorating, often atonal riffs they also venture into the Post-Hardcore realm, even nodding to Black Metal. The music is driven forward by the fast and virtuously drumming and the licks and groove from the bass guitar. The band TRNA describes their music as a hurricane of emotions, and Still´s music might be described as a maelstrom of passions as it sometimes seems like the band´s music is imploding. The second song, ”Continued Suffering of an Endless Night”, which is also the shortest on the album, is an example of the maelstrom-impression one gets. The guitars in discordant tonality are chasing after the fast-advancing drums and bass, struggling to keep up and on the verge of crumbling. It all makes this an intense and exciting piece of metal music. A first, too-quick listen might leave you a bit dizzy, but in a positive way.

Throughout the album you sense that the bass and the drums sometimes lead the music. This is evident at the end of track four, ”All but lost”: the song launches with sound effects and a lone clean guitar string, then bursts into a crushing and energetic soundscape with the vocals somewhere between Screamo and Death Metal. The drums are leading with what seems like a drum solo. Then the tempo shifts and the bass takes over the rest of the track sounding close to Roger Waters´ bass on ”Meddle”. The other instruments remain in the background with the drummer basically killing the snare drum and cymbals.

The bass continues to lead into the next track, ”Half Hands Won’t Hold” while the other instruments remain in the background like they are waiting to get started. And then the tremolo-like riffing kicks off the track, lifting it up with the vocals soaring above the music and the riffs becoming a force of nature until the tempo shifts with only the guitar still above the bass. But not for long, as the energetic music is back with drums fiercely leading the way ending with one distorted guitar tone resonating in the ear canal.

But, speaking of kicking off: The first track, “Droves”, really does that. It starts the album with guitar riffs reminiscent of a revving car waiting to get out of the starting grid to haul itself into a fast and furious race. This reminds me of when I first heard the opening track, ”Gossamer”, on Tombs´ debut album Winter Hours. I wondered if they could keep up the promise, they had given with that first track, throughout the album. They did. And so does Still with the opener on this album, kicking off with “Droves”. In fact, they exceed all expectations that the first track raises.

There are many interesting aspects of this album. Their first two released EPs set the expectation-bar high, and in my opinion, they have met them. Track seven, ”Drift”, starts with a heavy riff, dissonant guitar and blast drums before it goes into a kind of holding pattern, swirling around, struggling to get further before heavy bass drums and a low bass halts the music. Then sampled voices take over the soundscape - all going quiet before it explodes again towards an unruly drift to the end. The track is followed by ”Blear, Amidst”. Most of the track is sound effects behind guitar picking. And here you also get a glimse of how versatile the vocalist is. Towards the end of the song, they build up a soundscape that further develops the sound of Cult of Luna´s Salvation. It is remarkably well done.

The album closes with the cryptically-titled track ”Ever { I∙I∙MMXVI }” - it might the Roman number for the year they formed. This track is composed so well as it starts with a crescendo and sets off crushing with an ascending guitar-line and dense melodic riffs. In the middle there is a Post-Rock intermezzo making this track quite versatile. The track really shows how skilled they are at writing and performing this kind of music. And it also shows the range of the vocalist. This closing track sets the expectations high for what might come next from the band.

So, this band from Hull has definitely lived up to the promises they gave with the EPs Karin (2017) and Reprieve (2019) with this first full-length release. They might have a bit less-is-more attitude, calling the band Still and the first full length { }. But the music they pour out on the listener has definitely a more-is-more attitude, and even longer-lasting effects than one might understand at this moment.