MNRK Heavy
rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Death Is The Beginning
02. Paramnesia
03. Pale Eyes
04. What A Way To Go
05. Hollow Visions
06. Flesh & Blood
07. Desiderium
08. Remnants
09. The Way Out

Recorded at GOJIRA's Silver Cord Studios in Queens, New York City, SOMNURI's third album takes the Brooklyn trio ever further away from conventional notions of sludge metal. This band has always been defiant and awkward: melodic when others would be brutal, brutal when others would take their foot off the gas, and only tangentially nudging probable inspirational sources like MASTODON, BARONESS and KYLESA.

Second album "Nefarious Wave" emerged in 2021 to a frothing, effusive reception, and marked the band out as genuine mavericks, while also ticking all the appropriate boxes for grotesque riffing, quasi-psychedelic vocal harmonies and that streamlined rush of noise and aggro that only a three-piece can create. "Desiderium" is instantly recognizable as the work of the same creative force, but with an even more blatant disregard for sludgy convention. Coupled with a theme that reportedly tangles with the thin line between reality and delusion, this is going to mangle some minds.

Opener "Death Is The Beginning" sets the tone. Veering between the heaviest riffs SOMNURI have ever written and woozy, mellifluous, melodic passages that mutate into a genuinely catchy chorus, it scrapes and stabs with the intensity of death metal (another less obvious but equally potent influence, it seems) but switches seamlessly to watery melancholy, with every twist and turn perfectly balanced and in service to the song's overall impact. It's stunning, and an impressively shrewd upgrade for SOMNURI's trademark wall of sound. Recent single "Paramnesia" goes even harder in the extremity stakes, with frontman Justin Sherrell spewing venom over the verses, but it's the bleary-eyed harmonies that bubble up from the cacophony that sweep the song away from the norm. Similarly, "Pale Eyes" is a rampaging, dark metal assault, but one with countless smart ideas woven into its scabby tapestry. Sherrell's melodic interventions seem to float across the surface of SOMNURI's sinewy three-man attack, like a Valium fever dream in the middle of a circle pit. In contrast, "What A Way To Go" is a three-minute post-hardcore sprint. Although slightly less adventurous than everything else here, it tears along at a breathless pace and is entirely irresistible as a result.

Elsewhere, "Hollow Visions" takes a mid-paced approach to the aforementioned blend of excoriating sludge and melodic mischief; shades of SONIC YOUTH's liberated guitar abuse emerging from a lurching, hard-headed riff-up. "Flesh & Blood" turns left-field grunge on its head, as shiny hooks duel with brutish riffing, while the title track is a wonderfully intricate piece of post-metal songwriting: equal parts laconic emotional outpouring and jagged, juddering, SOUNDGARDEN-style riff concoction. "Remnants" reinforces the unpredictability of SOMNURI's evolved sludge ethos, with bursts of tricksy angularity and a sleepy-eyed melody that has a passing resemblance to HELMET's more accessible moments. Finally, "The Way Out" offers seething psychedelic fury, more of those script-flipped grunge vibes, and builds to a claustrophobic but elegant climax. A fitting, multifarious conclusion to an album that can only strengthen SOMNURI's reputation as arch sludge manipulators.

Author: Dom Lawson
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