Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth

The cover says it all: a molten sun cannonballs into a blackened landscape, spraying lava as it careers into finality. This gives you an indication of the scale and weight of this album. From the first chord Brothers of the Sonic Cloth demand that the volume dial go up as far as you can get it. A range of musical forms lurch out of the speakers – at times some of the riffs head toward Sunn O))) territory, or the Melvins at their most molasses-thick, but there’s none of the disinterest in rocking out that some denizens of guitar music’s outer reaches can sometimes exhibit.

This kicks ass without faint heart, apology or arty overlay – an album to be appreciated mentally but still enjoyed physically, not simply endured. For the majority of the record Tad Doyle’s vocals remain solidly set on growl – I barely caught a word throughout but words barely seem the point, it’s more a further coating over the instruments, a textural addition. His skill as a doom vocalist, however, is very visible – the full gamut of gurgles, screams, throaty tones and clean murmurs are on display; he’s a fair match for any more feted metal vocalist I can wrack my brains for at this point.

Backing vocals from Peggy Doyle on one song (and that's possibly drummer Dave French chiming in at points) are a welcome contrast, similar to the way Jarboe’s more ethereal style would bring momentarily relief to Swans, lending extra weight when Michael Gira’s baritone thudded back into play. Calling out a single highlight, a song that stands as the album’s centrepiece achievement, is easy. The eleven minute 'La Mano Poderosa' sees the band glorying in their practised dexterity. Within its labyrinthine confines the band gleefully build the introduction, then keep going higher with riff after riff platted round the axles of the rhythm section’s juggernaut. Numerous dangerous hairpin turns and spins hold no fear for this deft trio.

Two bonus tracks on the CD version make for a smooth comedown and aftermath; brief enough they don’t drain the high voltage energy from the record but gentle enough your pulse is back to normal by the time the disc clicks off. Turn, hit 'play', begin again. Again. Again.

Overall

7

out of 10

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