Usnea – Random Cosmic Violence

(Relapse Records, 2014)

Portland-based Usnea’s first album came last year, and not much is known of the member’s musical past. They classify their music as Funeral Death Doom, and all these classifications do fit the music, but contemplating this second full-length, I would personally place them more on the experimental Doom or slow Sludge section.

Checking their homepage, and gig-history, one cannot but marvel the amount of live-shows they’ve done. And this shows in the nature of the music, which sounds like a live-recording, only with quality studio sounds on every area of the whole.

The guitar-riffs are the usual slow Doom (a bit groovy) strokes, very heavy and low in sound. The bass and simply played drums are always heavy as shit as well. But the guitar-solos are at parts quite complex and fast-played in nature, which brings some originality to the band. Sometimes the lead-guitars are played through filters of such strong effects, they fill a huge amount of the soundscape with flanging and phasing psychedelia. There are also quite a lot of parts of more calm acoustic nature (sometimes taking influence from American folk-music perhaps), which fit the overall occult feeling of the album splendidly.

The vocals switch between Eyehategod-like screaming, low Death growling, atmospheric speeches which move at times on the border of singing, and also pure calm singing.

The pace of the songs is very slow, with no clear peculiarities or highlights in song structures. Just pure downing Doom, making your head mosh in very slow motion, moving like a lazy steady stream towards magnificent bleak sceneries, calm but determined. The album is constantly entertaining with quite few methods or ideas, and that is a sign of a good band, creating something vast out of simple ingredients. Only at the title-track do we get a few minutes of Black Metallic blasting, which honestly speaking doesn’t really fit the album (taking the atmosphere created thus far to different directions), but this is a question of taste.

The overall sound of the album is clear and heavy at the same time. Sometimes the mix goes so hard and low it breaks the sounds, cracked and filling with warm weighty noise. This is not the groovy seventies-influenced heavy Doom like early Electric Wizard, but the more modern Blackened and Crusty type, still being somehow ancient-sounding, yet of high quality in sounds and performance. This album will please those into DIY- and Punk-attitude-Doom and Sludge, fans of bands such as Thou, and why not open-minded fans of slow Death Metal such as Ruins Of Beverast as well.

8/10 – Antti Mikonmäki

Usnea (Facebook)

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