Future Echo Returns
2nd September 2016 – Black Bow Records
02. Electric Breath
03. In The Grip Of Fausto
04. Ritual Beginnings
05. Rat Chariot
07. Into The Eternal
Black Bow Records are an unquestionable benchmark for doom quality. This is largely due to the work of Conan and Jon Davis, but Belfastite duo Slomatics have permanently been at the forefront of the creeping doom revolution. On Future Echo Returns, the tinkering of their previous work is even more apparent, even more out-there – and surprisingly, they’ve produced the most accessible record of their career.
Whilst Conan’s approach has worked wonders for them, it does threaten to breed an environment of sonic competition based solely on sonic extravagance. Fortunately for us, Slomatics are diehard mavericks. I’ve spoken previously about how sludge is an excellent breeding ground for fringe ideas and nowhere is this more obvious than here. In many ways this is a continuation of ideas from previous album Estron; the solid sludge foundation is layered with all kinds of glittering ideas and flourishes. However, it’s not after the midpoint of the record that the album starts to warp and adjust the tone of the whole piece.
Intro track “Estronomicon” erupts into explorative noisy synth before kicking into the reliable sludge on which we were all counting, taking a pleasantly melodic turn later on. This theme continues for the first half of the album. As “In the Grip of Fausto” concludes, the major transition of the album emerges with “Ritual Beginnings“. The record’s mid-section gradually fades into twinkly space vibes which admittedly stray a little into “Stonehenge” territory; Spinal Tap spectre aside, the track is both an example of what’s to come and a cool-down from the chaos of the first act.
When we return, the album has a warmer feel; the final three tracks showcase the vocals being increasingly brought to the forefront and additional vocal layers being added. The bellow-y “Rat Chariot” has more than a little of labelmates Conan influence, but the concise “Supernothing” features some syrupy pipes; these are focussed to joyous, cathartic vocalising in majestic conclusive track “Into The Eternal“. It really is the second half of the album where the electronics are played down that the band’s personality comes to the forefront; the vocals round off the record perfectly, taking a solid sludge effort and elevating it to a gorgeous experience.
It’s tempting to sigh that the transformation in their sound isn’t more obvious from the start, or that the harsh electronics/warm vocal contrast isn’t a little more even throughout, however Future Echo Returns‘ meandering charm wins out and we’re left with an idiosyncratic album which would run the risk of being diminished were it stripped back.
If you’ve been following Slomatics for a while then this record may come as a little bit of a curveball – but really, in 2016 this breed of sludge is all curveballs and Future Echo Returns is an elegant curveball thrown by some of the very best curveball-throwers in the biz; Slomatics have mucked about with their formula and have pulled off a blinder. This one of the most goddamn listenable albums of the year.