Abandoned By The Sun
18th August 2014 – Autumnsong Records
01. Sudden Dereliction – 8’15
02. Suicidium – 2’01
03. Exiled Witness – 5’49
04. Maternal Mortality – 6’45
05. Fear Of Water – 6’29
06. Mother Free – 5’41
07. Purgatorial Membrane – 2’38
08. Finite – 9’31
Formed by members of the amusingly named burlesque prog rock group Procosmian Fannyfiddlers, Mater Thallium are a brand new progressive doom rock band from Norway. They’re advertised as “old-school heavy progressive rock with a twist of doom, topped with flourishes of Scandinavian folk music”; a fine summation of their characteristics. The Canterbury prog rock scene is evident in the sonic mixture of the record; the instrumentation is very 70s, from the guitar through to the keyboards. The likes of Candlemass and Black Sabbath also figure quite heavily in their sound, and there’s the influence of bands like King Crimson and Caravan.
The concept of their new album Abandoned By The Sun is certainly dark for prog, however. It explores the story surrounding the disappearance of a teenage girl who, and the effect that has on everyone who was close to her. There are themes of internal struggle – of not knowing who to blame, and coping with the loss – but it actually ends up taking on a much more grim and macabre light than a sorrowful one; the music is dreary and mournful, but also occasionally infernal, reflecting the moods of the people portrayed in the story. “Suicidium”, an interlude-type passage, expresses this with deep, dark organ chords and heavy choral chanting.
The song segues into the extremely unsettling “Exiled Witness” which boasts the kind of riffs of which avant-garde black metal masters Deathspell Omega would be proud, before dropping into something that could be found at home on Opeth’s Ghost Reveries.
The instrumentation is definitely very much in the style of 70s doom rock, but there is also a twisted, progressive aspect to it that lends it a unique flavour. The organs are perhaps what truly lend this album credibility as a more retro kind of album.
At the end of “Maternal Mortality” a music-box rendition of “Pop Goes The Weasel” plays, and the effect is extremely unsettling and haunting. There are times when the album’s trend of doom and gloom fail to properly convey the mood, however; the majority of “Maternal Mortality”, while an able reflection morbid reflection on pain and death, just sort of plods along without any direction.
Petter Falk’s vocals on the album are quite listenable. They have a thin whispy quality which manages to soar to emotional heights on occasion. The chorus on “Exiled Witness” is perhaps the finest example, but “Fear of Water” boasts some interesting passages of gritty intensity as well.
The production and mixing feels somehow both retro and modern; the organs that shimmer in the background probably help give it that 60s/70s vibe, and the guitar tone is reminiscent of those era too, but they’re filtered through modern production values, meaning the bass and drums are far more prevalent in the mix, and it has a lot more low-end than any recording from that era.
Abandoned By The Sun is a gloomy trip down a dark lane with grim overhanging trees. It is wreathed in grief, death, and loss – but inconsistently so; the atmosphere is patchy and drags the release down at times. “Exiled Witness” and “Fear of Water” are nearly terrifying in their execution, playing perfectly to the album’s strengths, but other tracks, such as “Mother Free”, do nothing of the sort, and the distinction between some is hard to make without looking at the track timer.
It does nothing to really push anything forward, but is a decently competent fusion of retro genres, one that is more interesting than most throwback bands of today.
Favourite tracks: “Suicidium/Exiled Witness”, “Fear of Water” “Sudden Dereliction”