I hate myself just a little bit more than usual for that pun in this article’s title.
As I grow older, I find myself becoming more and more enthralled with darker, mature, more thought-out metal, and Melbourne’s Sundr are just one such type of band; scratching my ever-growing itch for such music and then some.
Since 2015’s ‘Loss‘, Sundr have been collating the cascading instrumentals, sluggish sludgy tempos and dirge-esque riffs of doom, liberally utilising the size, scope, dynamics and haunting melodic tendencies of post-metal, and the primal screaming and raw undertones of black metal and post-hardcore to create a hostile yet engrossing sound. Now with their second record, the doomy and darkened seven-track epic that was this year’s ‘The Canvas Sea‘ (released back in June as an FYI), Sundr took that very approach to metal and then drove it to its most extreme points.
The dark and lively album, which was recorded at The Black Lodge in Brunswick, Melbourne and engineered by High Tension’s Mike Deslandes (who also engineered The Nation Blue’s 2016 double LP, ‘Black‘ and ‘Blue‘), it’s a mammoth slow burn of a record. And that’s why it works. The near-painful drudging pace in the early minutes of ‘Guilty Gods‘ begets its utterly massive midsection and also that of its drawn out, ambient finale. Where the 12-minute behemoth that is this LP’s title track or the 10-minute follow up of ‘Corinthians‘ both float upon oceans of unsettling eeriness and droning doom metal, they’re both contrasted by the album’s two greatly shorter interludes; one riddled with noisy feedback and the other a piece of off-putting piano only. (Both of which are called ‘–‘, in what is a totally non-confusing manner). Then there’s the foreboding, snowballing grind of lead single and show stealer, ‘I Still See Plagues‘, that moves towards this brief yet fast-running outro of rapid drumming and riffs with booming screams over the top; gifting the album’s midway mark with what is its true highpoint. It’s a section that you know is coming from the early moments yet once it arrives, it still hits you like a goddamn blackened freight train.
And it’s this particular song, as well as its accompanying music video, that encapsulates Sundr’s sound so bloody well! Filmed and edited by Crowbar’s own Wilson Bambrick and in using stunning footage he shot from here in Melbourne and Brisbane as well as Kazakhstan, the ‘I Still See Plagues‘ film clip captures the isolating tone and bleak story that Sundr envisioned for this work. It’s a tale of observing one’s own surroundings, especially in times of emotional and mental anxiety and distress; an ideal that the band and Bambrick nail.
In the press materials for the clip from back in June, Sundr vocalist Scott Curtis put forward his thoughts as to why the band selected ‘I Still See Plagues‘ to be the first song lifted from the record and the first to be given the video clip treatment, saying:
“We felt this track was the best stand-alone single to introduce the overall vibe of the new record. It has the addition of Imogen’s vocals which we were very excited for people to hear, it’s the shortest song on the record and the structure makes it stand out as an individual. We thought the dynamics of the song, the way it builds and the nature of the lyrics could really be complemented by these intense visuals.“
The shots of varying landscape represent the song’s themes of environmental observation to a poignant degree. There’s this surreal sense of emptiness and alienation one gets in seeing the city’s and expansive suburban locations shown – despite seeing the mark of human hands everywhere – as well as an eerie comfort found in the pristine and almost-static nature shots of lush forests, quiet farms and wide-open fields. This stark contrast of the natural with the coldly artificial and how the video’s scenes flow between the two extremes as the track moves towards its end gave me some very real chills the first time I watched the clip.
Furthermore, the ‘I Still See Plagues‘ video delivers the same, inescapable ominous feeling in its audiovisual presentation that Cascades‘ ‘Whitewater‘ music video also did to my psyche just a few weeks ago. The kind that stays with you long after the piece has ended.
Armed with such a deep listening and viewing experience and following the release of such an immense record, the Victorian quartet of Curtis, guitarist Troy Power, bassist Adam Turcato and drummer Dan Neumann have now taken this effort over to Japan as of writing. However, they’ll be bringing their canvas sea odyssey back to the home land later this month and then right on into September. So be sure to catch Sundr at one of the following dates around Australia (presened by Life Is Noise Publicity):
Saturday, August 26th – The Brisbane Hotel, Hobart w/ DÉPARTE, CASCADES, BREAK THROUGH
Saturday, September 9th – Fat Louie’s, Brisbane w/ SIBERIAN HELL SOUNDS, BLIND GIRLS, EMPRESS
Saturday, September 16th – The Crown and Anchor, Adelaide w/ TOMBSEALER, SWAMP LUNG, FAITHEATER
Saturday, September 22nd – The Old Bar, Melbourne – SUNDR/CASCADES Double LP Launch
(For more info, click here).
Stream Sundr’s ‘The Canvas Sea’ below. A solid yet melancholic experience, it be!