Geographical information is helpful when thinking about the content and context of a work. The Sacramento hybrid doom metal/post-rock band, (WANING), decided to employ the name of an actual mountain range (and probably a fictional one as well, like Mastodon’s own “Blood Mountain” etc), “The Funeral Mountains.” This range is within range of a visit from our Capitol City, making up part of the Death Valley wilderness. It is not clear if the band spent time in that location, but their record is full of stark earth imagery (‘Siesmic,’ ‘Rootless,’ etc) that quickly evoke similar locations. These lyrics also seem connected by references to a flying creature(s), along with a mysterious group of Ancient Ones and perhaps their interactions with mortal men. Typically and appropriately esoteric for such an album, they are still quite rich and beg the question of their true intention.
The full length, (the band’s third overall), is big step forward into professionalism for the band, be it through the wonderfully crisp ‘pop’ of the snare drum and its fellow fellow skins and cymbals to the clearer transitions between ideas. As a fan of that specific drum tone, I might be a bit biased, but it really helps keeps the murkiness in order. There is also an overall sense of resolution and confidence in the proceedings that point to a focused band that are beginning to hit their stride.
Worth mentioning are the vocals, which in some ways prove to be a highlight even when they are mixed too low at times. Vocalist/keyboardist Susan Hunt’s singing is made more ethereal by the production and are analogous to her work on the board. At times serving as a sort of narrator voice in opposition to the perhaps more emotive and versatile cleans, howls and growls of vocalists Jim Willig (guitars and cleans) and Ian Black (bass and harsh, who at times reminds of Garm here). There is a compelling evidence of serious thought and work throughout the album, even if there are clearly more inspired moments. Perhaps chief among them is the screamed central part of the title track, which is much more immediate and powerful thanks to a heightened sense of urgency from Black’s harsh emanations.
That is not to say that the rest of the album is “samey,” not by a long shot. One of the strongest tracks, ‘Seismic,’ distinguishes itself through the a pulsating rhythm that is further highlighted by thrilling roars out of vocal camp. Dual clean vocals combine atop a beautiful chord pattern following the crunching passage for a deft journey through emotional and stirring imagery. In the same way, many of the record’s stronger portions occur when the many elements are combined together. It probably isn’t a great idea to make this kitchen sink approach the norm on the next album, but perhaps even more elements can be brought to the table. There are always more vocal challenges or tempo variations (and as a blast-beat fanboy, why not some of those?) to keep the band busy.
Visit (WANING)’s bandcamp