Wednesday 21 August 2019

Planet Mastergod - There are Snakes in These Woods (2019)

Country: Norway
Style: Post-Rock
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 14 Aug 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook

This wasn't what I expected in the slightest. I'd seen this listed as doom and the cover art would look like black metal even if Planet Mastergod were not Norwegian. However, it's really an alternative metal album, taking its influences from bands as diverse as Tool, The Cure and Soundgarden, and it got nicely under my skin.

I'm not sure if the title of the album is supposed to tie to the cover art, with some of those bare branches transforming into snakes if only we search long enough. Otherwise, it seems to have nothing to do with the four tracks that constitute the album. Dyret is short, at four and a half minutes, while everything else is at least twice that, and there are no snakes anywhere to be found. Well, maybe Dyret has a few, given that it translates to 'animal' and I don't speak Norwegian.

It's the odd track out for other reasons too. It's not just short, it's slow and alternative. I'm not sure what instrument was creating a sort of fuzzy drone behind the soft noodling of the guitar, but it felt like rain. It's a long while since I've heard the Cure, but there's a gothic melancholy to it that benefits from rain. The band call their home "the cold and dirty city of Halden, Norway". Maybe it needs some rain.

The other songs take their sweet time. The Doomriders Prayers has some goth to it as well, but it's more the Sisters of Mercy, laid over a careful build that's reminiscent of Tool, just still more patient. That Tool comparison is more overt as the album goes on. Secular Detox begins with another slow and careful build, but with a more prowling bass. The Monsters in Your Skies is as out and out Tool as Scandinavia gets without calling it Soen.

The other most prominent aspect to this album is its patience. The Monsters in Your Skies runs a mere three seconds under ten minutes and both Secular Detox and The Doomriders Prayers are longer. Yet whoever handles the vocals here is notably reticent about stepping up to the mike. I don't know who it is because, while there are four guys in the band, I can't find details on who does what. I presume that the mysterious singer also plays something in a standard two guitar, bass and drums line up. Those vocals are easily the most alternative aspect here, as much pop as they are rock, but melancholy pop that plays well against rock instrumentation.

Given that the instruments are traditional for rock music and all of these songs could be described as trying for hypnotic soundscapes, this could be easily described as post-rock as well as anything else. Planet Mastergod's Bandcamp page tags them "alternative" and "hard rock". Earlier albums (this is their fourth) include "metal" too, but there's less of that than I would have expected coming in.

As with most post-rock, whether this succeeds is going to depend if you can buy into the soundscapes they create. Many won't, because the tracks are so incessantly long and stubbornly patient. Those who are open to that sort of thing may dig this. I found it a rather agreeable companion at four o'clock in the morning while the rest of my world was asleep.

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