Raya by PothamusRelease date: December 4, 2020
Label: Consouling Agency
Surely it is time for a study into what has been put into the water in Belgium. A magical generation is managing to carry on the old traditions in brewing whilst their peers are also making new marks on the football field and, even more so, in the arts. A name to add to that list is the stunning three-piece Pothamus. Debut album Raya is the culmination of three years writing and recording as well as building on the steady trajectory from the band’s earlier releases. Raya mixes ritualistic ceremony with a hypnotizing, meditative, heavy groove entangled in genres such as doom and post-metal. The music on offer here is extremely captivating, so much so that the band should have put a finger snap at the end to awaken the listener from the trance in which it induced them.
You can’t mention Belgium and post-metal without touching on Amenra and amazingly there isn’t very much in the way of crossover between the two here. Pothamus has that monastic feel to its atmosphere, a sense of ceremony in its atmospheric output and some wonderful clean reverbing vocals, but it never enters the Amenra playbook of quiet and loud. It is the solo work of CHVE that comes more to mind when the monolithic ‘Orath’ begins to drift through the speakers. As the guitar and bass begin to churn forward and the vocals echo through it almost feels as if the pace is being hand cranked on a hurdy gurdy. The drums are a constant whilst the bass and guitar build, echo and build again and this all causes a feeling of perpetual motion and a building of tension. Here the band shows a great ability to control that release with vocals changing to deeper screams or the music hitting a bit harder to always keep up a pace which stops the song completely dissipating from a high point. It is a mesmerising 11 minutes and the energy continues to flow from here through the rest of the album.
The band doesn’t stick to one template though and the 16-minute title track ‘Raya’ does fold in on itself to rebuild but still works within the album aesthetic. The bass work is incredible as it sets off on a riff that the guitar and drums flirt with before finally engaging in a rhythm that made me convulse in a manner fit for a sweaty venue somewhere. Whilst ‘Viso’ flows into the wake of ‘Orath’ it dips further into heavy sounds akin to Eve era Ufomammut. When the band emerges it then produces some lighter moments in ‘Heravis I’ and ‘Heravis II’ which have nods to the slower moments of Tool without any wavering. The swirling atmospherics and vocal delivery ensures that all these changes glide over the listener so that the album as a whole runs coherently.
I can find zero fault with this album; I could talk about it for days and have discarded over 1,000 words trying to do justice to the outstanding cohesive 49 minutes. This feels fresh, unique, heavy and relaxed. If anything, it has made me miss live music the most this year as I would love nothing more than to feel Raya pulsing through me from a huge set of speakers. 2020 has been a fascinating year and Raya is an absolute beacon of hope amongst all that has restrained humanity.