28 Mar 2022 - Jonas
Doom Metal / Post-Metal | Isolation Records | Release date: 25 Mar 2022
A decade has passed since they released their last album, followed by an indefinite hiatus, but now Sundowning has returned from the other side, reinvigorated, with a truly fresh-sounding new album – “In the Light of Defeat, I Cease to Exist!”
Sometimes bands come back from an extended hiatus and it’s like they never missed a beat. Straight back to business, like they had been at it the whole time, though perhaps in a more clandestine manner. Other times, bands come back, and you can barely recognize who they are anymore, for better or worse. Sundowning’s return, however, doesn’t really fit into either one of these categories. This isn’t just a return to form. No, they’ve ascended to a completely different level. You can still tell it’s them, but it’s like someone took a chisel to the slab of igneous rock that used to be them and found their true form. What essentially used to be an atmospheric sludge metal outfit, has found a way to carefully fuse extraordinarily massive elements of blackened doom, while at the same time lacing everything with an almost industrial edge.
If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve guessed the first track, “Exits Don’t Exist”, used field recordings from one of the deepest circles of hell, complete with chains being dragged, and a filth you can hear. Then again, we only need a quick glance at the cover art by Sven Harambasic to come to the same conclusion, with disfigured faces wrapped in chains, seemingly contorted by the torment they’re enduring. While Sundowning had clean vocals before, they sound considerably more mature this time around, deeper, paired to perfection with doom-laden riffs of impossible weight.
Like with Seizures of the World (2012) or the split EP with Red Apollo (2013), it isn’t all clean vocals. The post-metal growls are still present, but there’s also an additional of almost black metal shrieks every now and then, giving some excellent contrast to the unstoppable sludge juggernaut. The almost oppressive darkness is a theme that permeates the entire record, but even then, there are ephemeral moments of noctilucence, a sort of light that pierces through the obsidian glass to the point of almost being a thing of beauty, but those moments are brief as we are quickly cast into pandemonium again.
Through some elaborate aural alchemy, In the Light of Defeat, I Case to Exist doesn’t solely mark the return of Sundowning from their hiatus, but a truly elevated form of themselves, transcending genres through a carefully interwoven fabric that is far greater than the sum of its parts. I was really excited to hear they were coming back, but even then, I couldn’t have anticipated how great this album would be, despite my high expectations. If I had a hat, I would tip it.