Most of us are captivated by the sea; whether sitting on the bracing edge of a cliff top, looking through a shore fixed window, or walking its skin lapping edge drawn and fascinated by the emotive call and lures it makes. Listening to the new album from Maudlin is an echo of the same evocation; a transfixing coaxing and adventure into emotion laden explorations, Maybe it should not surprise as the band hails from the shores of the North Sea in Oostende and its album carries tracks and a concept themed by the way the sea “gives and takes, it beats and anoints; its beauty always in stark contrast to its brutality.” The way Sassuma Arnaa consumes the imagination and immerses the senses in the same way as its natural counterpart though is simply a revelation and with songs which singularly take the listener into the depths of light and dark spawned emotion within siren spun escapades, emerges as one quite irresistible encounter.
The fourth album from Belgian quintet and their second with Consouling Sounds, following the critically acclaimed A Sign of Time, seven-track Sassuma Arnaa sees the band venture body deep into more progressive tides whilst still embracing post metal inclinations. With psychedelic currents equally a potent eddy within the instinctively powerful roar of sound and heart, the album is a kaleidoscope of sonic colour and lyrical design which dares you to look away knowing it is a mere ripple or wave from submerging and enslaving sense and psyche once more.
Recorded with Serge Feys (Arno, T.C. Matic) and mixed by Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Isis, Russian Circles), from its first breath Sassuma Arnaa reveals a tapestry of sound and styles which brings new shades and twists by the listen. At times we were embroiled in dark post punk/gothic shimmers reminding of the likes of Joy Division, Leitmotiv, and the thick atmospheric ventures of The Cure, in other moments gliding on the psychedelic and melodic winds of a Hawkwind or Ulver whilst a constant underlying doom seeded howl captivates as it trespasses. Together it all makes for an invasively mesmeric affair truly unique to Maudlin.
Opener Endless Expanse rises up from a distant sea mist; light and intrigue growing by the second as guitars weave their invitation. Swiftly the rich enticing tones of vocalist Davy De Schrooder add to the lure; the intimation of Jasper Bullynck and Kris Vannecke’s guitars uniting with his enticement as rhythms masterfully stroll. Ebbing and flowing in intensity, the track with an almost tender touch engulfs the senses as mystique laces its cosmopolitan melodic tendrils. The track is simply bewitching, a magnetic stirring start to the album and just a sign of things to come.
The album’s title track follows and instantly shares its rawer air and formidable muscle as it too slowly strolls with imposing grandeur. The earthy growl of Ken Verleye’s bass instantly enslaved as the purposeful swings of Davy Vandenbroecke’s beats land, a captivation escalating through the tantalising vines bred by the guitars. There is a whiff of The Mission to the song early on which shines from behind the sighs in the tempestuous breath of the track whilst the backing vocals across guitarists and bassist just complement the imperious lead of De Schrooder. As its predecessor, the track enthrals as it guides the imagination, a quality enduring across Sassuma Arnaa as Above the Vast Clouds confirms. Caught in the warm glaze of the sun, ears are stroked with melodic seduction before spirals of sonic and melodic temptation pull them across the patient and just as enticing lures of the bass. There is volatility and danger in the lining of the track too which teases and stirs like a waiting storm, never quite fully igniting but keeping the beauty honest and listener inescapably gripped as darkness subsequently smokes every sinew and texture of the outstanding track.
With a personal love of driving in thick fog, facing its sinister touch and perpetual threat, there was no avoiding the temptation of The Fog Returns, the track musically encapsulating that feel with its suffocating air, invasive weight, and melodic flirtation. Again the siren like quality of the album calls, coaxing and beckoning ears and thoughts into dark predacious perils and swift submission to all. Like a Lovecraftian sea shanty, the track is pure creative drama, entangling fears as it feeds off of them before Bête Noire snarls and hunts down those same emotions with feral like rapacity. Verleye again casts a bass snarl to simply devour whilst the stoner lined doom bred grooves of Bullynck and Vannecke tempt as they trespass. A maelstrom of ancient seeded threat and predation with transfixing sighs of beauty, the track is a grumbling seduction so easy to be carried away by.
Like a mix of Norwegian band In Vain and Australians Voyager, Erase washes provocatively on the shores of the senses and imagination, all the while its scenic towers rising second by step as melodies shape the sonic haze. Across ten captivating minutes, the song explores and conjures with a palette of flavours and imagination. At certain times there is a Celtic hint to the soundscape bringing thoughts of Horslips to the fore but almost by the second and note, it is an evolving and expanding incitement as emotionally intimate as it is sonically expansive.
From one mighty moment to another, as The Stowaway brings the album to a fine and tumultuous conclusion, the track washing over to deluging the listener with an unsettling fusion of tempestuousness calm and stormy intensity.
Every venture into Sassuma Arnaa brings new layers to venture and twists to feast upon; even after multiple plays still offering fresh aspects to explore. Without doubt it is the best thing from the craft and heart of Maudlin to date and destined to be one of the year’s finest moments.
Sassuma Arnaa is out now on CD and vinyl via Consouling Sounds; available @ http://maudlin.bandcamp.com and other stores.
Pete RingMaster 09/05/2018
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