Urraca by Sunless

Release date: February 24, 2017
Label: Self-Released

Hailing from Minnesota, Sunless play a sludgy progressive technical death metal brand with an emphasis on getting the most out of each instrument. The music is dirty and sullen, but with a goal at drawing the listener in to its intoxicating haze of instrumentation. Although this band could fall into the “technical death metal” category to some, it’s important to note that unlike most bands in that genre, Sunless focus more on the bottom-end and a doom-like approach to their playing, whereas much of the tech-death field relies on high-frequencies played at a demented pace. This description is what I surmised from my introduction to this power-trio upon first listen to their debut album Urraca, and with that kind of an explanation of their sound in my head, I knew I was in for something creative.

There’s a definite expansiveness to their playing, and all of the instruments gel so seamlessly into this captivating blend of hellish sounds that it’s hard not to be drawn in. ‘Wishes Fallen On Deafened Ears’ starts off the album with a heavy, fuzzy and lumbering approach. Low-register guttural vocals which aren’t too up-front mesh in well with the overall groove of the band’s approach. There’s a great chugging pace to the music with lots of interesting time changes and great syncopation. While displaying lots of shifts in the song, it’s comes across as totally captivating and incredibly intriguing.

‘Gathering At The Skull’s Eye’ picks up where the opener left off, with the same off-kilter mashing of styles. ‘Aberrant Clime’ draws an interesting resemblance to what Intronaut, Gorguts and early Mastodon would sound like blended together. ‘Born Of Clay’ is really the high point of the album for me, with its awesome drumming leading the charge, and the stringed instruments following the lead. The drum focus on this track in particular shows how incredibly talented skinsman Ben Iburg is, but it also shows how intense and gifted guitarist/vocalist Lucas Scott and bassist Mitch Schooler are at building on the daunting song structure. I like how the pace slows down at the mid-way point of this track to let everything flow, and then once we get that second wind, the band quickens the pace once again.

And while the second-half of the album contains a lot of the same highlights and talent that was focused on for the first-half, I find myself losing focus. I’m almost wishing that this collection of songs was in EP form, because it does tend to get a tad repetitive after a while. That’s not to say that it’s not still exciting to listen to, but it seems like they’ve gotten across all their ideas in the first half, and keep repeating that winning process for the second-half. While this may seem somewhat nitpicky to some, I was hoping for more variety and different approaches.

Perhaps for future releases, the band might want to move into a bit more of a post-metal route to fully let the entire collection of songs breathe and become more expansive. That’s not to say that they aren’t doing some entertaining things on this debut album, but it’s almost overwhelming to listen to too much of this at once. It’s frustrating in a sense just based on how good these guys can play.

Sometimes that old saying “less is more” can be applicable to music in a lot of ways, which is evident for Sunless on Urraca. This is a good start, but I’d love to see some of the criticism that I mentioned be taken care of for future releases.

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