For Fans Of
One of my favourite Australian labels is quickly becoming Art As Catharsis, managed by Sydney resident and Adrift For Days member, Lachlan R. Dale. (The ‘R’ probably stands for ‘radical’. Well, probably). 2017 has seen some stellar records come out from under the AAC household, namely the aforementioned Adrift For Days epic, ‘A Sleepless Grey‘ as well as Cascades‘ self-titled behemoth. But there be another name to add to that solid, ever-growing list and that name is Slowly Building Weapons, who have risen from the long dead, cold ashes of their past to follow up their solid 2007 debut ‘Nausicaä‘ with their expectation-levelling sophomore, ‘Sunbirds‘.
Whereas the Australian sunbird, the Olive-backed sunbird honeyeater, is a cute, pretty little thing, Slowly Building Weapons‘ 10-track comeback release is anything but cute or pretty. After all, the macabre cover of this record says otherwise, as well as the fact that this group’s particular sound wasn’t called ‘blackened hardcore’ for being bright, cheery, upbeat and melodically pleasing. Now, that idea of ‘blackened hardcore’ is shown off efficiently so with the album’s first two songs, ‘Throne‘ and ‘Lyre Birds‘; both displaying all of the anticipated menacing black metal riffs, high throaty shrieks, cacophonous drumming and a suitably raw, “unpolished” production and mix style that lends real credence to this release’s ferocity and impact. The imposing ‘Zoltar‘ achieves much the same effect with some black-metal-as-fuck chord progressions, heavier growled vocals and a raging hard-on for endless blast beats. At least, that is for the first eighty or so seconds of the song, before a slow-building crescendoing duo of distortion-drenched guitars and a pounding live-sounding drum groove reign in layers of other riffs and some lovely harsh noise elements. Y’know, that good shit!
It’s then here on ‘Sunbirds‘, that this Sydney-by-way-of-Japan-based group begin to really play around with other sounds, timbres, and melodic ideas. Exhibit A – ‘Sunforest‘. The piece starts off just as fast as its preceding siblings but soon enters a slower beat, with eerie, cleaner chords and actual singing that creates these haunting, engrossing sections that I couldn’t remove from my head no matter how hard I try. What was once an Oathbreaker or Converge record has now become more in line with that of a Have A Nice Life album – just with less emphasis on the distant instrumentals and heavily reverberant vocals. ‘Sunforest‘ is one one of the most stunning examples of why Slowly Building Weapons should be a much larger, more revered band than they are currently. (Fine proof that life is a real fucking arsehole sometimes). As the way that they develop this particular composition through its different moods, dynamics, and sounds is nothing short of surreal.
Light or dark, heavy or soft, this band are utterly lethal in their execution. And it’s this very dichotomy between SBW’s black metal and hardcore roots (later seen on the short sonic assault of ‘Editing The Desert‘, the last half of ‘Izep‘, as well as the first half of ‘Horses‘) and their wondrous experimentations with spine-tingling melodies and varied dynamic presences (the noisy, feedback-riddled closer ‘Purist‘, the first eerie half of ‘Izep‘, and the second half of ‘Horses‘) that makes this record such a gripping, interesting release.
‘Sunbirds‘ will not be to everybody’s tastes and expectations, but that’s just the thing, my friends – it was never ever intended to be.
Slowly Building Weapons are better and truer than most other “trve” black metal bands on their other-worldly second record. ‘Sunbirds’ is vicious hardcore without the pretentiousness and is experimental black metal without the camp nor the awful cliches that litter either genre; all culminating in a bleak, haunting yet engaging LP. Yes, Slowly Building Weapons may have once gone the way of the Dodo following their 2007 debut record, but hopefully (fingers crossed), that that will not be the case following the release of ‘Sunbirds’.
I sure as shit hope that I didn’t just jinx that…