Album Review: Sumac – “What One Becomes”

Sumac - What One Becomes

On second full length What One Becomes, Sumac does more than just offer up the standard sophomore release. What they do is expand on the near psychotic levels of dense aggression present on debut The Deal as well as play more like a unified giant in a way that same album hinted at. Their debut was astounding, no doubting that, but here it’s as if these three tap into the same brainwave. They play off one another extraordinarily well and while it’s only a five track album it is most definitely a long player. With no track shorter than nine minutes the band take full advantage of being able to stretch out completely.

One of many things that stood out on The Deal was that Aaron Turner sounded like he hasn’t in years. Of course Isis will be talked about for ages to come and yes, of course you can hear it in Sumac but the way in which he framed dissonant chaos against angry sludge was inspired to say the least. Not to mention the crushing atmospheric weight the album had and particularly so on successive spins. As triumphant of a return for Turner that this band’s debut was, What One Becomes eclipses it. Not just in songwriting but in the feel of the jagged time shifts and chaotic noise pieces, jarring at times and almost soothing at others. But therein lies the beauty of what Sumac is capable of, damn heavy at all times but more than astute to pull the reins back when needed.


No song captures this better than the epic and grandiose “Blackout”. Beginning with angry noise, screamed vocals, and a sluggish yet powerful cavalcade of skin bashing from Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists), this one lulls you into a false sense of knowing what’s next. But right about the halfway point the band goes awol with progressive structures, notes are bent to the breaking point and we’re left with something Pink Floyd might have done if plugged into a distorted amp stack. But it also shows the amount of growth the band has made since The Deal. Sounds weird to say since the membership of this trio is above veteran status but along these 17 plus minutes of harnessed energy it’s hard not to notice a stronger and more refined band.

Opener “Image Of Control” reflects the delicate balance of sanity that lies at the heart of this album as it rolls from the terror stricken angularity to an angry, muddy jam. And “Clutch Of Oblivion” effortlessly mixes the spaciousness of desert rock with the lumbering feel of Sleep hitting their stride on Dopesmoker via the monstrous bass work of Brian Cook (Botch, Russian Circles).

All pathways lead to closer “Will To Reach” which is the most indicative of the Sumac sound pioneered on The Deal. All band members past and present lives play a part here, the viciousness of Baptists, the post metal structuring of Isis, and the patience of Russian Circles all get a shot at the spotlight. But really this is what Sumac is at its darkened heart, the perfect amalgam of each influence under the guise of psychotic energy bursting at the seams. With the thesis of anxiety — how it functions and manifests itself in the public eye, Sumac do a fantastic job of dragging the listener through the experience with them. It’s not an easy listen, but is ultimately a rewarding one when given the time and space it needs to bloom in the minds eye. It, much like The Deal, leaves a lasting impression of extreme heaviness and deeper meanings — and not just another fly-by-night sophomore effort.


What One Becomes is yet another triumph for Sumac. The Deal established this band as being a monolithic entity in the pantheon of doom, sludge, and metal but this effort expands upon all of this while branching out into other realms of sound and consciousness. It explores deeper meanings and continues to sharply define each members influence as a muscular and jagged whole. If you were even a passive fan of their debut, you will find much to love here. But if you were a raving fan of that album then this one will be the one that permanently cements Sumac as a favorite. I can’t recommend this album enough, it’s an eloquently executed effort and an investment that shouldn’t be taken a track at a time — it requires your full attention for its near hour long runtime and will offer immense payback for the time spent.


What One Becomes will be available June 10 on Thrill Jockey Records. For more information on Sumac visit the band’s Facebook page.

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