Review: “I Carry My Awareness of Defeat Like a Banner of Victory” by “Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean”

Despite containing a wide variety of sub-genres each with their own flavors, themes, and playing styles, for many people Metal roughly translates to heavy music. While this is certainly a gross generalization, it is true that for a certain subset of metal bands the goal is unequivocally to make the heaviest, most brutally punishing music as they physically can. This is especially true in doom metal and sludge metal, where the often-frantic pace of the metal genre is slowed down to a menacing plod, trading in technicality for lower tunings and bludgeoning guitar riffs. Creating such oppressive sounds is no small feat. The best bands in these subgenres push the limits of heaviness daily, capable of creating an atmosphere so heavy that it is near suffocating. On their new EP I Carry My Awareness of Defeat Like a Banner of Victory, Springfield, Massachusetts band Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean do exactly that, exemplifying all of the best qualities of their native genre.

Titled after a line from Fernando Pessoa’s pseudo-autobiography The Book of DisquietI Carry My Awareness of Defeat Like a Banner of Victory carries, in a roundabout way, an almost positive message considering the extreme nihilism that birthed it. It wears disillusionment like a coat of arms, not knowing exactly for what reason, and knowing full well that time will bury it just the same as all other banners. But in a world that seems incoherent and meaningless, it is a banner nonetheless, a marker designating something in the endless desert of nothingness, the awareness of the void, the one true victory that the emptiness can offer. Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean mirror this bleak landscape through the EP, offering little comfort while exploring the open face of the abyss with their eyes wide and their confidence unflinching.

The instrumentals are equally as bleak and callous as the subject matter. Opening track I’ve Got a Gut Feeling plods along in a crushing down-tempo for nearly the first half of it’s 7 minute run time, before it explodes when you least expect it into a tom groove. It feels like the sonic equivalent of trying to run a marathon with cinder blocks tied to your legs; each riff seems to hit your body with physical force and drive it into the ground. The same can be said for the second track, With Every Wrist Outstretched, which grows slower and slower as it goes on, following the tortured screams of their vocalist as he leads the song into a dark spiral.

When they reach the third and last song, And Every Sword Unsheathed, Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean abandon the sheer, brute force approach and transition seamlessly into groovy sludge metal, providing a rare up-tempo shuffle on a riff reminiscent of sludge-metal kings High on Fire, though with a much colder production style. Here they pull out all the stops and show off a little, transitioning through groove changes, allowing the bass to lead the way in the verses, and even ending with a wah-heavy guitar solo. It’s a standout track from the relatively new band, and one that should garner them recognition as a solid up and comer.

I Carry My Awareness of Defeat Like a Banner of Victory as a whole should draw some attention to the Massachusetts newcomers. As far as doom and sludge metal goes, it is a very solid EP. Members of that niche corner of the metal community will find lots to like about it, though due to it’s incredibly niche nature it doesn’t have much outside appeal. This is the story of pretty much every band that plays the “how heavy can we possibly be” game, however: it makes for music that is situationally satisfying and enjoyable, but not music that many people can listen to the majority of the time. For what it is though, ICMAODLABOV is quite solid and certainly merits a listen from diehard fans of the genre.

6.7/10 (Solid)

For more information on our rating scale, see: Our Rating Scale

*On the Spotify version of the EP, the track titles and orders of the last two songs are flipped, the 5:05 track should be titled “And Every Sword Unsheathed” and should be track 3.

Our Favorite Musical Moments of 2018

 

This week is our year in review week at Not a Sound and we wanted to try celebrating a few things that don’t get celebrated enough. Both of our editors are musicians and/or songwriters outside of the blog and are passionate about the creative craft that goes into making good music. With that in mind, we thought it would be fun to do a pair of columns celebrating the craft of music rather than just the whole finished product. In the last article we basically just wanted to geek out about a few of our favorite lyrics from releases in 2018. In this one we want to share some of favorite musical moments from 2018. We hope you enjoy these songs as much as we do!

The Offensively Heavy Chorus Riff in “Whispers Among Us” by Rolo Tomassi

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On an album that is definitely not your father’s metal album, Rolo Tomassi pull off incredible cinematic moments, beautiful jazz sections, and lush synth washes, but it was not the most experimental moment on the album that first caught my attention, rather it was exactly what I came for: an obscenely heavy riff. Usually when a band tries to out-heavy themselves it comes off somewhat comical, satisfying, but in a way that makes you think “oh I can’t believe they did that.” The chorus of “Whispers Among Us” manages the incredibly difficult task of landing a riff that is unthinkably heavy, but contextualized in a way that it isn’t in the least bit comical. Instead it hits like a falling building, catching the listener unsuspecting and burying them before they know what hit them.

The Classic, Disney-esque Strings in “Window” by Noname

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Though Noname’s newest offering is led primarily by her talented lyricism, it is also an album full of creative arrangement choices. Perhaps one of the most ear-catching is the introduction to “Window”, which features a beautiful, cinematic string section that can only be prepared to the opening of a fairy-tale or a classic Disney movie.

The Transitions From “On Watch II” to “E.D.” to “The Author” on Slow Mass’s “On Watch”

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Slow Mass’s newest record might be the most underrated album of 2018, due in large part to their mastery of dynamic movement both in songs and between them. One of the most incredible moments on the album comes as the interlude “On Watch II” crescendos into the frenetic “E.D.”, which is more than doubly as heavy as anything previous on the album, which itself fizzles out after only a minute into the reserved track “The Author.” It happens so quickly and from so out of left field that it almost demands you replay it to make sure you didn’t imagine it.

The Jarring Beat Changes on “SICKO MODE” by Travis Scott feat. Drake

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“Sicko Mode” is the best song off 2018’s Astroworld.  In an album full of hits, it stands above the others as the main attraction.  Between the multiple beat changes and catchy (if uncomplicated) flows from Scott and Drake, the song feels like a thrilling rollercoaster, the kind where you’re ready to ride again as soon as you get off.

The Rock n’ Roll Ecstasy of “Freeee (Ghost Town Pt. 2)” by KIDS SEE GHOSTS

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To those only marginally familiar with their careers, it may seem unlikely that Kanye West and Kid Cudi created one of the most explosive rock jams of the year.  But indeed – it happened.  The crushing guitar chords and booming drums clash gorgeously with Kanye’s yelpy singing, while Cudi’s bass-heavy voice sounds like it could swallow up the world.  Add in the gorgeous harmonies provided by Ty Dolla $ign during the breaks, and you have the type of song that you’ll be turning up to max volume over and over again.

The Psychedelic Mirage of “Nowhere2go” by Earl Sweatshirt

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The first single off of Earl Sweatshirt’s Some Rap Songs is a beautiful hallucination of sound.  There is so much going on, so much to unpack during its 1:53 run time. Earl raps over a disorienting yet infectious beat, as layer upon layer of melodic samples whirl around him.  It is gorgeous and exhilarating, the type of song that begs to be longer.  The sounds themselves are so beautiful that it is easy to forget that Earl is actually saying words here; his voice sounds like just another instrument in the mix.