Last year during my 365 Days of Metal video project, I covered Milwaukee, Wisconsin band Arctic Sleep and their fourth album, “Arbors.” I came across the band on Bandcamp and loved their original heavy-yet-melodic sound. At the time I likened them to a metal version of Smashing Pumpkins, with massive guitar riffs complemented by clean and melodic vocals.
A few weeks ago I received an email from Keith D, one half of Arctic Sleep. Keith mentioned how much they enjoyed my review of “Arbors” and said they were hoping to get my opinion on their forthcoming release, “Passage of Gaia.” I was of course thrilled to be given the honor of checking out an advance copy of the new album; mere minutes later I was rocking out to the glorious new sounds on “Passage of Gaia.”
I always find it challenging to try to describe the sound of a band that I find unique, so it makes my job that much easier when I can lift an aptly-phrased description I can agree with from a band’s own website. Here is how Artic Sleep describes their sound: “Arctic Sleep is a Milwaukee, WI, USA based band that incorporates elements of space-rock, doom, and drone into often-lengthy songs driven by a unique combination of massively atmospheric heaviness and bittersweet melody accompanied by calm & ghostly vocals delivering lyrics containing recurring themes of nature, space, sorrow, and detachment.”
Sounds pretty crazy, right? Yeah, crazy good! The wonderfully clean and punchy production on “Passage of Gaia” helps emphasize the massive drum and guitar sound. The drum/guitar combination is probably my favorite aspect of these songs, and it is heavy enough to make sludge bands nod with approval while beautiful and airy enough to lull the listener into a very relaxed state.
Let us not forget the vocals. As I mentioned in my previous review, I got the impression of a metal Billy Corgan from the “Arbors” album, but this time around I found myself reaching for another reference that seemed just out reach; tip of my tongue if you will. Several more listens through “Passage of Gaia” and it finally came to me. These vocals have the same dream-like quality as “Too High to Die”-era Meat Puppets. Something along the lines of “We Don’t Exist.” What a cool combination of music and vocals.
I would like to be able to say that fans of Metal Brand X or Rock Brand Y will totally dig “Passage of Gaia”, but I really do not see this album fitting comfortably within any pre-packaged genre type. All I can say with certainty is that I love Arctic Sleep and “Passage to Gaia” and I think they are making some incredibly cool music. All lovers of heavy music should head over to Arctic Sleep’s Bandcamp page and drop a mere 10 bones on this spectacular release. Personally, I went all-in and dropped $20 for the double vinyl release and another $15 for the wicked looking t-shirt.
You can listen below to an album teaser, or, if you are the patient type, you can check out two full songs from the album on our Metal Heads podcast which will be posting tomorrow.