With a glut of low-and-slow bands coming from the Pacific Northwest, it’s a blessing and a curse to be a fan of doom metal right now. As with every other subgenre that has experienced a passing emergence into the limelight, doom metal has recently produced some fantastic bands, lots of carbon copies, and some really terrible ones that rely more on their amps and guitar tones than real songwriting. Rarely do many of them show promise from the start: Seattle-based UN (exactly how you think it’s pronounced), fortunately, exceed just having potential on their debut The Tomb of All Things, an artistically mature exercise in funeral doom with flourishes of post-metal and abrasive sludge.
The Tomb of All Things, to use a cliché becoming too familiar to doom albums, is an introspective journey through its running time that forces listeners to look inward and gaze into the inevitable darkness there. From the cavernous, solemn clean guitars that start the album to the massively melodic climax at the end of the closing title track, UN carry listeners into lightless realms driven more by morose beauty than the feedback-drenched misanthropy that the Northwest is known for. Musically, comparisons to traditional funeral doom are almost necessary, though UN do strike out into post-metal territory, adding a climactic ambience to an otherwise dread-based ordeal. “Forgotten Path” particularly stands out for shimmering leads over the crushing rhythms, not dissimilar to Pallbearer, and the last few minutes of “Sol Marasmus” is the quietest passage of the entire album, driven by barely-there clean guitars and minimalistic drums. Finally, none of the album’s four core tracks are under ten minutes, and the long song lengths lend themselves to simply getting lost under the weight of the sound and letting the album unfurl itself onto you.
For all of its dark beauty, though, The Tomb of All Things still drags listeners through the thick murk of despair with chunky stop-start riffs akin to early Ahab, with things getting especially ugly about a third of the way through “Sol Marasmus.” The band’s sludge influence is most notable in the thick, saturated guitar tone and the band’s habit of letting chords sustain into infinity— in a live environment, entire buildings resonate with tone like that. Additionally, the vocals rarely waver from a forceful, vitriolic death growl that wouldn’t be out of place on a modern death metal album. There are some occasionally unforeseen treats, though, such the majestic and triumphant guitar solo in “Through the Luminous Dusk,” one of the greatest emotional and instrumental peaks on the album. On a general level, one of UN’s greatest strengths is to maintain the same dirge and consistent atmosphere while introducing inventive, dynamic ways of approaching traditional funeral doom. The long build-ups that veer through post-metal territory generally pay off with cathartic, grief-ridden climaxes, and The Tomb of All Things capitalizes on creating tension, holding it for almost too long, and then opening the floodgates with walls of melodies and crushing force.
Even though a few select moments tend to drag and some riffs are repeated a few too many times with too little embellishment to maintain momentum – the first four minutes of “Forgotten Path” don’t really go anywhere – The Tomb of All Things still didn’t allow me to nod off too much. Even when the riffs play too long and too sparsely, they’re still better than most of what the Northwest is producing with its amplifier worship and lack of actual content. Aided by a suitably spacious and thick mixing job, The Tomb of All Things is a daunting but excellent record even though some sections need a trim. 2015 has already been a fantastic year for doom, and UN cap it off beautifully with the type of debut that all bands want to have – mature, tasteful, free of significant flaws. The perfect soundtrack to your brutally long and dreary winter.