(Random Cosmic Violence)
YOB, Pallbearer, Om
2014 has been an impressive year for doom metal. The year included releases from the veterans of OM and YOB, to the newfangled juggernauts of Pallbearer along with a teaser track from the godfather's Sleep. It has also been a growth year for the genre as a variety of bands have been sprouting up new to the scene. We have sampled quite a few of these new bands. Our take on the doom metal genre has always been hit or miss. There are quite a few bands that understand the power of simplicity that doom metal brings and can pull off the transitions and crescendos. Others unfortunately have fallen woefully flat by focusing too much on the droning repetition and not enough on contrast.
One of the newer bands that have caught our attention is Usnea and their sophomore release Random Cosmic Violence. The band formed in 2011 out of the very prolific region of Portland, Oregon signing with the impressive label that is Relapse Records. The album features four tracks spanning between ten and fifteen minutes each. The four tracks individually paint a unique mood through themes of the occult, terror, and the cataclysmic decline of society.
1) Lying in Ruin
2) Healing Through Death
3) Random Cosmic Violence
"Lying in Ruin" features some heavy funeral sludge metal and ominous screeching vocals. The track has some classic black metal moments. The track also highlights some of the varied vocal styles that Usnea does a nice job of infusing throughout the album. They provide some attention to detail with their subtle harmonies layered over death metal chants. The production is solid which is essential given the dominant bass and percussion within the song. The bellowing bass on this track will really be exposed if you have a weak sound system. It was blissful on our Paradigms.
On "Healing Through Death" we become more intrigued by the diversity Usnea brings. High-octave vocals accompany some more soothing mid-paced tempos. Further in the song some very deep vocals ensue along with some slick and very dark guitar work. Very interesting how the track steadily slows in pace and the percussion gets more prominent culminating with some very distinctive and resonating notes. We love the echo-effect towards the end of the track.
The title track combines some unique elements by blending, winds sound effects and acoustic guitar along with death metal behind a steady doom metal backdrop. The track also infuses some classic rock and stoner rock influences. Soon to follow are some chanting that eventually blends into heavier riffs. The track is unique for its back and forth between styles. The song ends in a cacophony of double bass and swirling guitars.
The closing song "Detritus"gets back to slower-paced sludge and subtly brings back elements from each of the three previous tracks. The slowing progression fuels even darker and angrier themes culminating into a grinding halt. Impressive ending to a very dark album accentuating all that is cataclysmic.
Usnea continue to improve their sound as Random Cosmic Violence is a significant improvement over their first album. Overcast dismal themes are very well played with a fair amount of diversity for a doom metal album. We appreciate the attention to detail that Usnea brings. They clearly invested significant time and energy to the making of this album. Grab this one as it will enhance your doom metal collection. - 11/24/2014
Standout Tracks: Detritus, Healing Through Death