Tuesday 25 June 2019

Flesh of the Stars - Mercy (2019)

Country: USA
Style: Doom Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 21 Jun 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Metal Archives

Flesh of the Stars is hardly the most mainstream name in the world, but the band clearly aren't interested in mainstream, or they wouldn't have started this album with its 22 minute title track. Even Genesis left side long songs until the very end of their albums. Ironically, they're named for a website but don't seem to have one. That's weird.

This is their first such side long song, I should add, twice as long as any previous track they've recorded over their three prior albums, unless we see their previous one, Anhilla, as a single piece whose three quarters of an hour are broken up into tracks only for convenience.

Mercy is a beast of a track. It betrays Pink Floyd as a key influence and I mean really early, Syd Barrett era Floyd rather than the later Roger Waters version. It's odd hearing psychedelic pop suddenly turn into mammoth weight doom but I'm hardly going to sniff at originality. Maybe this could be seen as post-doom, because it's clearly meant to be really heavy stuff except on the occasions when it isn't and that approach suggests a sort of soundscape mentality, especially given the outro with its soft plucking, a drone and a bevy of birds flying around to give their vocal contribution.

It could easily be argued that it's a couple of minutes too long but it's a clear epic and it finds that feel a quarter of an hour in. From there, time distorts and becomes meaningless.

Rites, a snippet of a track by comparison at almost seven minutes, combines soft, folky guitar with deep crunch and floating melodic vocals. It becomes something of a promise by the time it wraps up, a sort of ritual piece for some esoteric gain or other. Oddly, given its name, Procession, doesn't aim to follow suit, though it does keep a more consistent step. Seen in a wider context, the two do fit together.

Wisteria doesn't, but it's an oddly deep song, given that it's quiet, almost ambient guitar string plucking under the clear voice of Rachel Rustemeyer, a folky set of pipes that sing with the melancholy dial ramped way up. At two minutes, maybe it's meant to be an interlude, a thought back before we hit a new high with the final track.

That's Burial, almost ten minutes long and much of that easily dominated by the truly wild bass of Travis Marmon. It kicks off like a bass solo and I haven't heard anything this vibrant from that instrument since Anasthesia (Pulling Teeth). It's eventually joined by a high melody and a clean vocal line. Those vocals are patient and controlled but the bass is a wild creature tasting newfound freedom.

It's this last track that confuses me, because otherwise it could be seen as a sort of loose concept album, speaking not to a life but a death from the moment it occurs to the moment the body is secreted away for eternity. The song titles all fit except for this one, which isn't remotely static. It's more like the body didn't want to be buried so flung off its shroud and ran away, whooping with wild laughter at being alive. If it wasn't so playful, I might throw out a paranormal comparison, but it doesn't feel dangerous, just blissfully unrestrained.

I've been exploring a lot of music this year that works around the nexus of doom, stoner metal and psychedelia. This is yet another album to play there but it's yet another album that sounds unlike any of the others. It's a neat crossroads to find for creative souls with unique visions and Flesh of the Stars, who hail from Chicago and were formed as recently as 2015, are worthy visitors to this font of originality.

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