Omega Massif was a genuinely massive band. Throughout their roughly nine year existence, the German post-metal quartet crafted a short, but undeniably solid, string of releases and possessed a tremendous sound whose immense volume even caught the attention of Neurosis‘ Scott Kelly.
Though the band unfortunately parted ways in 2014, members of the outfit went on to form three equally enormous sounding bands. The bands in question are Blacksmoker, Phantom Winter and Cranial; the latter of which has released one of the most colossal records of the year.
Just like the foreboding monolith that graces its cover, Cranial’s full-length debut Dark Towers/Bright Lights towers over everything. Its unrelenting, lumbering amalgam of post-metal, doom and sludge crushes listeners beneath its monstrous feet. Being subjected to this devastating doom and gloom across 45 minutes makes for a sonically suffocating experience.
Dark Towers/Bright Lights is comprised of four gargantuan tracks, each of which span over 10 minutes in length. Powerful, earth shattering drum work lays the foundation for these lengthy compositions, running the gamut between steady pulverization and rhythmic carnage. Dropped-tuned guitars and bass unleash a myriad of leviathanic chord progressions, chugging sludge and apocalyptic riffs atop this thunderous array of percussion, while also toying with various atmospheric elements as well. Vocals are far and in between on these tracks, but when the bellowing growls do appear, they add another element to the album’s sprawling wave of brutality.
“Dark” opens up the record with a flurry of heart-arresting drumming as sludgy riffs crawl in a menacing fashion, building tension with each note. This tension is eventually broken as the band launches into a death march of chugging, galloping sludge that could topple skyscrapers with their sonic force. Here the band utilize repetition thoughtfully to provide an ample, consistent beating, while a second wave of guitars conjures soaring leads over the top. After an explosive climax of tumultuous groove, the song bleeds directly into the album’s unsurprisingly towering second track, “Towers”.
After a few moments of surging electronic soundscapes, “Towers” officially begins with high octane drum work and a barrage of tremolo-picked guitar riffs. This blistering metallic blitz is immediately followed by an unyielding display of brute force as the instrumentation switches to a slower, cataclysmic approach that continuously bludgeons throughout this 11-minute tune. It should be apparent to the listener at this point that the record becomes increasingly heavier and more ruthless with each subsequent track. So, naturally, the second half of the record is undeniably destructive.
The record’s final half, “Bright” and “Lights”, showcase the band pulling out all of the stops to make sure no listener leaves unscathed. The nearly 12-minute “Bright” is an unending maelstrom of savage, galloping sludge metal and bleak, atmospheric doom that is extremely dark and cold despite the track’s name. Then “Lights” officially closes out the album with intense post-metal warfare, utilizing weapons of thrashing sludge, walls of feedback and rampaging riffs to yield calamitous results. Once this behemoth of a record comes to a close, listeners will be crawling back for more despite the broken bones they acquired along the way.
Just like the band it spawned from, Cranial is genuinely massive. Dark Towers/Bright Lights might be the band’s first official full-length, but it is one that points to a very bright future. Fans of all things slow and low will be hard-pressed to find an album that’s as relentlessly heavy and huge as this one.
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Label: Moment of Collapse Records
Favorite Tracks: “Dark” and “Lights”
For Fans Of: Kenoma, Omega Massif, Phantom Winter, Hemelbestormer and Neurosis