Sinmara - Aphotic Womb - (8/10)
Published on August 20, 2014
Occupying the same space at the more extreme end of the Icelandic black metal spectrum as Svartidauđi and Wormlust, though largely eschewing the chaotic density of the former and the occasionally trippy atmospherics of the latter, Sinmara (formerly known as Chao) seem intent on straddling that thin line between dissonance and directness. Insofar as Aphotic Womb is primarily a raw black metal affair (yet one imbued with a compositional bent not wholly dependent on linear structure), comparisons to the likes of Aosoth and fellow countrymen Carpe Noctem would also suffice.
Carpe Noctem seems a particularly instructive reference point, as Aphotic Womb essentially comes across as a slightly more compact but less well produced version of said band’s In Terra Profugus. Vacillating back and forth between slash-and-burn belligerence and moments of tempered swell-and-release, Aphotic Womb arguably relies more on its vortex-like atmosphere and punctuated sense of counterpoint to get its point across, with instances of individual riff-work being in rather short supply. There are exceptions to this, as the somewhat thrashing riffs (and groove) of “Verminous” and the surprisingly, ahem, ‘uplifting,’ riffs in the instrumental (“Stygian Voyage”) showcase a keen sense of riff-craft, but at its core this is an album that favors vibes over riffs. They unite all the disparate elements of their sound in the mammoth 10-minute “Mountains of Quivering Bones”. Taking their time to flesh out all the little nuances of their pitch black sound, this song’s melodies lurch and strike with the requisite eeriness and I have to admit that some of the extended doom passages serve them well. If the production had afforded it a tad more low-end it would’ve competed with the likes of Svartidauđi’s “The Perpetual Nothing.”
Getting all pedantic about where exactly Sinmara fits into some imaginary Icelandic BM “hierarchy” is an unnecessary pursuit, though. They check all the requisite (sub)genre boxes, the songs move along at a steady clip, the atmosphere is palpable – you name it. Like I said, the production is a bit on the thin side in places, and the similarity to the aforementioned Svartidauđi and Carpe Noctem means it’s not necessarily the most unique piece of work out there, but when all is said and done Aphotic Womb is yet another stellar release from the ever-impressive (and increasingly fecund) Icelandic scene.
Acquire or expire.