Album Reviews

SUMAC: May You Be Held – “like trying to escape from tangled barbed wire”

Aaron Turner’s SUMAC returns with more mind-bending interpretations of metal.

Since the late ’90s, Aaron Turner has held and flailed the torch as a key purveyor of progressive and heavy sounds.

After leading post-metal titans, ISIS, Turner has been involved in a plethora of projects, not limited to Old Man Gloom (who themselves have released two albums this year), Split Cranium, Jodis, House of Low Culture, plus a swathe of collaboration work, most notably with Japanese sonic shredder, Keiji Haino and more recently with his wife Faith Coloccia as Mammifer and Summer Of Seventeen (who released their debut album last week).

SUMAC seems to be his constant release of creative desires and alongside Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists), and Brian Cook (Russian Circles, These Arms Are Snakes), the band return with their follow-up to 2018’s Love In Shadow in May You Be Held – their fourth album.

SUMAC’s bludgeoning tones are once again the focal point. It could be described as listening to the latest incarnation of Swans but through a much darker prism.

Uniform: Shame – “a withering coalition of sounds from the darkest pits”

A Prayer For Your Path opens up the album with slow shuddering drones that could be a cinematic backdrop to someone creeping through the forest in a bid to evade some bloody-thirsty marauder.

Just under twenty minutes in length, the title track is broken up into three parts a-la something Godspeed You! Black Emperor might have produced.

SUMAC - May You Be Held

Here, though, it is far more fractured, drenched in free-form improvisation with warped timing signatures and drum fills that appear like daggers from the shadows. Turner‘s mirthless barks take centre stage alongside riffs that crush like debris falling from a crumbling skyscraper.

Lead single, The Iron Chair, is a hypnotic potion of tumbling jazz-inspired percussion that have been conceived from the abyss and low-end guitar noodlings that sound like a deconstructed version of blues metal.

The second longest cut on the album, Consumed follows its namesake, slowly strangling you into submission. If anything, it sounds like early ISIS on downers.

Which leads into the minimal cinematic dirge that is Laughter and Silence. The song tying up May You Be Held in fine fashion, with SUMAC affording their audience a chance to catch their breath.

Steve Von Till: No Wilderness Deep Enough – “connecting the dots between existentialism and a dream state”

Listening to May You Be Held is like trying to escape from tangled barbed wire. A distorted interpretation of something akin to no-wave metal, Aaron Turner has always remained constant in not making the same record twice.

While things are slightly obscure and impenetrable at times, those with a roving ear will always come back to what he creates because you are guaranteed something different every time. May You Be Held is a continuation of that.

May You Be Held is out now via Thrill Jockey.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

One reply on “SUMAC: May You Be Held – “like trying to escape from tangled barbed wire””

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