Despite the number of significant releases that have already dropped this January, I recently decide to scour the depths of some of the smaller-scale albums this week in hopes to find something unique and, ideally, fairly decent. One of the first things that caught my attention was a band out of LA called Taarkus. Pitched as a doom metal band — cathedral doom to be more precise — I immediately sensed some potential in their debut single, Stones, based on description alone. After giving this 7″ a spin (ok, I’m not spinning anything, but you know what I mean), that potential rang true. A number of curious influences generate a doom metal sound that will definitely grab your attention, even if you’re not exactly sure what to make of it. Which is about where I stand.
As I mentioned, Stones was released as a 7″ LP and features two tracks. The total run time of 10 minutes, with neither track more than five and a half minutes, is certainly modest for something filed into a doom category, a genre traditionally known for long, arcing tracks that resonate note after note. But in this case, the duration is appropriate. Any longer and the sound would grow stale very easily, and become rather boring. Allow me to dig into each side in more detail.
Side A showcases “Stones”, which is driven by a single repetitive and deliberate guitar and rhythm passage basically from start to finish. There is virtually no deviation in tempo or feel. But the track is short enough so it really isn’t much of a hindrance in the level of enjoyment. What drives this track, and overall listen, are the clean vocals provided by Stephanie Sallee and Emma Maatman. I was curious about how exactly these borderline-choir vocals would work over a doom-driven instrumental structure, but the interplay is quite effective. The major downfall of this sound, however, is the organ element that is overly present in the sound. It feels like an unnatural aspect of a sound that otherwise flows nicely with the otherwise more focused instrumental feel. The organ almost feels comical over it all, lessening the seriousness of the overall sound. But again, it’s one feature and it wouldn’t necessarily be fair to hone in on that exclusively.
On Side B, we explore “At Midnight”. It maintains an overall similar sound and feel, however the guitars are a bit more exploratory and several of the notes are given just a little bit more time to evolve as individual entities. Again, a touch regularly associated with anything under the doom umbrella. The vocals are just as impressive and the organ just as, well, not. But one thing we notice come into play more on this track is the flute. Personally, I don’t hate the implementation of such instruments in metal, or really any genre, but you have to wonder how well it actually works here. It’s a bit of a flair that sounds nice, sure, but it also conflicts with everything this sound is built off of. Almost making things feel somewhat directionless in regard to the actual feeling it wants to present to an audience. Especially when combined with the organ.
Overall, there are clever moments to the debut single from Taarkus, and I would be willing to acknowledge the potential here. But at the same time, this is also a sound that seems to lack a true personality. As a listener, it is easy to find enjoyment in the steady pacing and the absolutely gorgeous vocals, but it is also difficult to truly relate to the music. The ambition is certainly appreciated, and the willingness to experiment is obvious (and one of the best aspects of the genre), but it could benefit from a bit more development. Personally, I’m interested to see how Taarkus follows up Stones and what a potential full length album would do. We shall see.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”