Insect Ark deliver a brooding, haunting, psychedelic doom opus with their second full-length album, Marrow Hymns.
The brainchild of New York multi-instrumentalist Dana Schechter, Insect Ark is a forward thinking project that has a penchant for crafting enveloping, often soul-crushing atmospheres. Its sound seems to draw from a wide range of influences, including doom metal, post-rock and psychedelia, but is none of those things as well. With Schechter’s ability to touch upon these various styles and meld them together seamlessly, and her usage of non-conventional instrumentation for music of this caliber, creates a truly unique listening experience that proves to be heavier and more dynamic than some of her more metal counterparts.
On Insect Ark‘s newest recording, Marrow Hymns, the aforementioned heavy and dynamic aspects of the band’s music is put proudly on display. Though the record retains the transcendental, almost occult atmospheres that characterized its predecessor, 2015’s Portal/Well, it brims with more darkness and urgency than Insect Ark has touched upon in the past. Schechter is once again at the helm utilizing bass, synths and lap steel to create monolithic, crushing, and often otherworldly soundscapes. Drums are handled by Ashley Spungin this time around, whose sense of groove is impeccable and seismic. Together the duo take the project to places previously unexplored in past releases.
After a brief, reverberating intro on “Thelema”, the album officially kicks off to a gloomy start on “Arp 9”. The track begins with a steady cycle of wavering bass lines that march along while the lap steel whines and flutters like it was culled from a drug addled Ennio Morricone soundtrack. As it progresses, the riffs become more elaborate as everything is steadily drowned in waves of seasick ambiance. Spungin’s drumming drives this track and gives it added character as her rhythmic shifts and frantic fills are employed unpredictably, giving chaos to a seemingly subdued composition.
The sprawling “In the Nest” comes crawling in next with its psychedelic Western atmosphere. The rhythm section lumbers along somberly, the bass guitar churning out massive, buzzing riffs with each step. The lap steel slides with tremendous force, pushing walls of shimmering sound over the listener. Its as if the song transports listeners into a vast desert that would only exist within the depths of a fever dream.
Longer cuts like the nearly nine-minute penultimate track, “Windless”, excel at enveloping listeners with atmosphere alone. The track opens with hollow, airy ambiance that gradually becomes more haunting and ethereal as it progresses. The soundscapes begin to swirl with no concrete structure as the percussion becomes increasingly elaborate, leaving listeners to get lost in all of this ghost-like sound. Eventually this wall of sound gives way to a final, somber, almost shoegaze-esque funeral march that will lead them to the end.
Then there are more aggressive cuts that break the mold a bit, but still fit in the album stylistically. The fourth track, “Skin Walker”, is all hammering groove. The bass riffs and drums bludgeon in odd meters while the lap steel moans like a beast from some unfathomable universe. Though nowhere near as angular, the song “Sea Harps” cycles back-and-forth between psychedelic sprawls, groaning slide and caustic, stomping bass lines, ensuring the listener feels absolutely discombobulated.
Insect Ark‘s Marrow Hymns is simply impressive. These two virtuosic musicians navigate the “metal” and underground music scenes in their own singular way and defy categorization. They’ve set the bar high for themselves and their contemporaries with this release.
Release Date: February 23, 2018
Label: Profound Lore Records
Favorite Tracks: “Arp 9”, “In the Nest”, “Skin Walker” and “Slow Ray”
For Fans Of: Swans, Earth, Gnaw, Locrian and Mamiffer