‘A Fire On The Sea’
Nine Records (June 2014)
Unsilence’s gentle, considered and beautiful traditional doom metal is a warm embrace in a cold world. ‘A Fire On The Sea’ is the band’s second full-length album, and it is uplifting and melancholic in a way that only high-quality doom can achieve. Unsilence manage to be effortlessly epic, never resorting to melodrama, bombast or gothic pretension.
This release from Poland’s Nine Records follows on from the band’s exciting 2009 debut ‘Under A Torn Sky’. It takes Unsilence to a new level, creating deeply touching and emotionally mature slow and heavy music that has the X factor. Not the glitzy, formulaic Simon Cowell type, of course, but a genuine sense of mystery and power. Much of this comes through the larynx of James Kilmurray, whose unique vocals rise and soar like a doomed blend of Michael Stipe and Sinead O’Connor. Twenty years ago, with their original singer Andrew Hodson, Unsilence created some very decent death-doom but, since guitarist Kilmurray stepped up to the mic, the band has really carved itself a niche in the doom underground.
Inspired by the likes of Candlemass and Celtic Frost, Unsilence is the sickly child of Kilmurray and Kieron Tuohey, the latter of whom is also a member of doom prospects The Human Condition, along with drummer Jonathon Gibbs and bassist James Moffatt, both of whom temporarily join him on this recording (following the departure of long-time bass wielder David Elliott). ‘A Fire On The Sea’ was recorded at Full Stack Studio in Lancashire, England, with Matt Richardson handling the engineering duties.
The album features a richer and more balanced sound than the band’s previous recording, which goes hand in hand with a new sense of purpose and dynamism in the songwriting. The seven tracks typically last for six or seven minutes each, and are generally well-conceived and smartly-paced compositions that develop into something glorious. ‘A Thousand Seasons, for example, is a sophisticated and expertly-crafted doom metal opus, while ‘Breaking Away’ provides a sublime ‘otherness’ through the unusual vocals and harmonic genius.
As before, Unsilence are slightly over-reliant on Kilmurray’s voice, which risks suffocating the songs on occasion, and there are times when his over-elaboration proves to be a distraction. Unsilence are at their most potent when the unusual guitar melodies are given their own space to breathe, such as on the opening song ‘The Doorway’. Elsewhere, there are a number of mid-tempo excursions that add an almost stoner-ish hint and help to release some of the rising pressure. Similarly, ‘Old Tides’ is a brief, folky acoustic doom ditty that is an antidote to the claustrophobia, adding an element of surprise like a bunch of depressed wandering minstrels knocking on your door.
Like Unsilence’s previous album, ‘A Fire On The Sea’ seems to draw inspiration from nature’s elements, which inject an inner strength and organic power to this contemplative collection of top-notch doom metal hymns. Unsilence are a unique force of nature; they might not get round to releasing new work very often, but when they do it’s worth the wait. ‘A Fire On The Sea’ is a quietly magnificent triumph.