25 Sep 2021 - Pat O'
Post-Rock/Post-Metal | Pelagic Records | Release date: 08 Oct 2021
The Pelagic Records roster has come up trumps once more with the addition of Shy, Low to the family. Their new album Snake Behind The Sun is a post music rollercoaster of groove, melody and ferocity that’s cleverly and carefully restrained by moments of rich melodic interludes. Everyone will be talking about this album for a long time to come.
My first proper introduction to Shy, Low was not through an album or a Bandcamp recommendation, but through a transcendent and kinetically charged gig at the esteemed Dunk!Festival forest stage back in 2019. The band drew blood, sweat and tears that evening, throwing everything they had into every track of that performance. They were feeding off the energy of all those huddled together under a sunshade of oak, elm and pine trees. It was a memorable show for me simply because I held no preconceptions of the band prior to this gathering. Needless to say, they won me over right from the off with the skill and deftness they showcased in their delivery. What also stood out that evening amidst the sap soaked atmosphere and pine needled terrain was the respect and acknowledgement they relayed back to the folk who amassed to see them perform. It was a memorable gig for sure. That evening I purchased some merchandise and went on my Belgian beer-soaked merry-way to the next band knowing I had just witnessed a band that were only an album away from hitting the upper echelons of the “post-rock” world.
Having said all that, the band are far from green horns, as they’ve been playing and releasing music since 2012. However, people really stood up and took notice with the release of 2015’s Hiraeth, a nostalgic and deeply melancholic mix of “post-rock” splendour. When word of a new album surfaced, I made it my business to be the VoS guy who got to review the soon to be, Snake Behind The Sun.
When reviewing certain bands I tend to stand back for a moment and take stock of who I’m reviewing and assess the path the band has taken to get to where they are today. Being part of an underground scene, It’s a real joy to watch a band grow and develop their sound, and ultimately release an album that’s stacked with maturity and creativity. Snake Behind The Sun typifies that and is a gigantic step forward for Shy, Low. Now part of the Pelagic Records family, the guys have laid down their intentions with this release. The Richmond, Virginia based four-piece have made an epic album chock-full of groove, heaviness and ferocity that’s often tied down and restrained with moments of rich melodic interludes. So, let me share the thoughts and emotions I experienced as I deep dived into Snake Behind The Sun.
So, what better way to announce your presence and your intent than hit the listener square in the face with an intro that’s a fury of power chords and thundering drums! “Where The Light Bends” is a musical, sensory overload, swinging wildly at you with an onslaught of shifting harmonies and fevered refinement. A contradiction in terms maybe, but I think you know what I’m getting at. Once you have shaken off the initial brain shock, a deep, husky base line seamlessly blends that heaving intro with a lush sweet interlude, that builds ever so elegantly, spitting out melody and harmony with ease. What follows is a crescendo of epic proportions, all the time tangled and interwoven with soaring guitars and chunky base playing. The track closes with a clambering of drums that become the intro for the second track on the album, and the first track to be released as a single.
“Helioentropy” continues that mid-tempo beat and adds some soft ambling chords before unfurling into a giant anthemic melody that soars and swallows you whole. What binds this majestic moment together is the insanely complex drum pattern that pummels and rolls with ferocity, speed and absolute precision. That anthemic guitar stringed cry returns once more with the sweetest of lead guitars and the heaviest of rhythmic riffs. The track closes with a barrage of instruments that leaves you pumped and gasping for air.
The gutsy “post-metal” riffs of “Umbra” brings a heavy and gloomier sound to the album, with its slightly downcast resonance and its murky synthesised atmospherics. The track undulates and worms its way towards a soft comforting trumpet passage (I do love my brass in rock/metal!) that gradually becomes distorted and frenzied, morphing into a doom-laden riff that rattles your ribcage and draws you into the biggest surprise track of the album, “Fulgurations”.
“Fulgurations” opens at a frantic pace, with a bass cannonade that shakes every bone in your body, from the metatarsal on your pinkie toe right through to your cervical vertebra. If this track had adorned that Dunk! forest stage back in 2019 it would have literally shaken every leaf and pine needle from its branches, such is the power it manifests. Throughout “Fulgurations”, the tag of “post-rock” has been put to one side momentarily as the track propels froward, with tempos twisting and turning, chiselling out heavy metal melodies and dark, doom harmonies. Shy, Low somehow manage to ignite a ferocious wall of sound while all the time keeping it lit with natural melodic undertones. “The Beacon” accentuates this to perfection with its tapestry of light and dark and its simplistic approach to bringing the album back on its “post-rock” voyage without the listener ever being thrown overboard.
The final two tracks “Fata Morgana” and “Decease Spe Re” only reiterates what I have said about Snake Behind The Sun right from the beginning. Shy, Low have managed to fuse progressive musical intricacies that would other times clash and muddy the waters. They have used these intricate moments wisely and adorned them with melody and euphony, making it all fit like a snakeskin glove! This album will undoubtedly please all Shy, Low fans and most certainly gain them many new admirers. Hard work pays off and Shy, Low should now reap the rewards.