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When it comes to experimental rock New Zealand boasts a proud lineage of talented yet painfully under appreciated acts. You need only to look towards ultimate cult label Flying Nun’s eclectic stable of artists for evidence of the nation’s proclivity for turning out exceptionally dark and experimental acts. Channelling the same dark energies of their Flying Nun predecessors, four-piece Sunken Seas deliver experimental guitar driven gloom on second album Glass.
We love our Kiwi bands, even when they’re as dissonant and gloomy as Sunken Seas. Glass is proof of their right as successors to NZ noise rock.
Sunken Seas initially began in 2011 and the group have undergone some changes following the release of their Cataclysm EP in 2013. Relocating from their native Wellington to Auckland the band have also expanded into a four-piece recruiting Jordan Puryer (drums) and Dave Provan (guitar) to join original members Ryan Haret (vocals) and Luke Kavanagh (guitar). Recorded in a small hunting lodge in the isolation of rural Martinborough, the quartet developed and recorded their experimental tracks with the help of producer and sound engineer James Goldsmith (also known for work with New Zealand punk trio Die!Die!Die!).
First track Mirage sets the tone with cold indifferent vocals, unremitting bass and a pummelling kick drum swathed in guitar distortion. With a dim resignation which evokes the goth rock of Bauhaus, the track’s sonic elements meld together to form a bleak and ominous soundscape. As with the majority of the album the drone of Haret’s nebulous vocals and his ambiguous lyrics sit distantly in the mix, but are always teeming with melancholy.
What is notable about the album’s contrasting tracks is how each pushes into different realms of experimentation. While the echoing and ascending guitar riffs of Alt Figure colour the album with a post rock flavour, Wesley’s hammering drums and grinding guitar notes reverberate within an enormous soundscape to create an excellent industrial feel. Metasoma assaults the senses with towering unison riffs and a crashing rhythm section.
The tortured vocals of Clear lurk below the calamitous roar of dissonant guitars. Repetition of Haret’s lyric “I can’t see clear” takes the role of a central motif struggling to remain afloat amongst a swell of building intensity and unstructured sonic turmoil. The reverberant guitar drones of instrumental track Scarlet offer a moment of brief respite before the chugging hypnotic riffs of Crane of Foil. The sinister tone of ambient closer No Way Through the Fog provide a fittingly melancholy conclusion to the album.
A worthy successor of its noise rock antecedents, Sunken Seas’s Glass exudes immersive atmospheric gloom and experimental ambience that takes the listener to dark places. While no dates have been announced, word from the band is that Sunken Seas will be touring Australian shores in the coming months.
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